Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Paris Climate Agreement: Shaky Future or Solid First Step?

The first steps toward an effective reduction in greenhouse gases took place among delegates from 196 countries. The negotiations took place in Paris and resulted in a near-universal agreement. Delegates sought to bring pollution levels down to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages. The accord calls on all nations, no matter their economic status, to limit their carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to overall emission limitation, reviews will be conducted every five years in order to incentivize further pollution decreases.

The agreement was met with a degree of opposition from congressional Republicans. The main argument from the party surrounds the affirmation of linking man-made pollution to the rising temperature levels. U.S. officials designed the accord’s “bottom-up” structure, which avoids requiring the White House from seeking formal congressional approval due to the voluntary nature to lower emission levels. Additionally, others criticized the Obama administration for agreeing to a treaty that is much less ambitious than it should be, considering the severity of the problem. Officials admitted that the accord is insufficient on its own, but the structure provides for more aggressive policies to take place at a later time. In addition to the policies, the agreement incited discussion of future research of technologies that would be able to remove carbon dioxide in the air.

Issues with the agreement include a lack of specified date as to when the parties will partake in the process of rapid reductions in emissions. Even if all countries abide by the new rules set forward by the agreement, reports of new research on glaciers melting and permafrost thawing to release carbon dioxide may have repercussions the accord could not fix. The text also states that developed countries will provide “financial resources to assist developing country parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation”, which will also help these countries use cleaner energy systems.
Although developed countries are allegedly going to make financial contributions, many expressed discontent with developed countries and their lack of ambition. India’s environment minister complained that the “actions of developed countries are far below their historical responsibilities and fair share.” In order for the climate accord to be successfully implemented, individual nations will have to put personal wishes aside and work towards a common goal. The next step may be to look into negative emissions technology and how to incorporate them on an international scale.

1 comment:

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