Monday, December 14, 2015

Paris Agreement on Climate Change

The Conference of Parties (COP) 21 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convened staring on November 30. While the last talks at Copenhagen were seen as a failure due to the lack of agreement, and there were high hopes that a new comprehensive and binding agreement would be made in Paris. The talks in Paris were extended in order to finalize an agreement.

The Paris Agreement was announced on December 12, aiming to keep the rise in temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius. The major impetus for this was the push by the island states  whose very existences are threatened by climate change and its repercussions. In addition to rising sea levels, climate change also destroys coral reefs and oceanic wildlife, threatening some of their livelihoods as well. They have found allies in some European, Asian, and American delegations, showing a shift in geopolitical ties due to the climate change issue. 

Other geopolitical shifts include the decreasing power of major oil producers and companies in the fossil fuel industry. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will lose more of its sway, especially since there has been a lack of cohesion on production quantity policy in the last few months. Saudi Arabia could lose some of its geographic relevance due to the decline in relative importance of oil. Russia could lose a major source of its geopolitical power: its oil and natural gas resources and pipelines. Companies in fossil fuel industries will also seem like riskier investments to the general populace, as government policies towards them might be drastic or implemented on short notice.

The relative decline of fossil fuel production comes as renewable energy rises. Countries known for their innovation and technology are likely to fare well since they will be the ones likely to develop further renewable energy sources, as well as ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

However, not all of the 195 delegations at the COP 21 talks have announced a national plan to mitigate climate change. Nine have not announced such plans, including Nicaragua, Venezuela, North Korea, Libya, East Timor, Nepal, Uzbekistan, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Panama. By not becoming involved with the Paris Agreement, these countries risk becoming geopolitically isolated from the rest of the world.

While there is a debate as to whether the Paris Agreement will be effective or just symbolic, it is clear that it has real geopolitical implications that will affect the future of the world. 

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