What is Paris agreement?
The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
An agreement on the language of the treaty was negotiated at COP-21 of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015.
Countries have a year to put their signatures on the Agreement. Friday, April 22, was just the first day of that one-year window. Being Earth Day, it had great symbolic value.
What does ‘signing the Paris Agreement’ mean?
Signing is the first of the two-step process to operationalise the Paris Agreement. The next step is the ratification of the Agreement by competent authorities in each of these countries. That is a more complicated and time-consuming process. Signing shows the ‘intention’ of countries to take steps to ratify the Agreement in due course.
How is ratification done?
Countries follow different systems and domestic laws to adhere to international treaties or agreements. In some cases, the government of the day is competent to decide whether the country would be part of an international legal agreement or not whereas some nations requires assent of their Parliament. In many countries, a Presidential decree is enough. It all depends on the political system that the country follows, the nature of its government and its domestic laws, and also the kind of international treaty or agreement under consideration.
In India, approval of Parliament will not be required for the government to ratify the Paris Agreement. A Cabinet decision to this effect would be enough. The United States, on the other hand, would need the approval of both Houses of Congress to join the Agreement. In the case of the EU, ratification will be even more complicated because the consent of each member country will have to be obtained.
What are the terms and condition for its operationalisation?
For its operationalisation, the Paris Agreement requires the signing and ratification by at least 55 countries which together account for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Both conditions need to be met. Once these conditions are fulfilled, the Agreement would come into effect regardless of the number of countries that remain outside. But only those who join the Agreement by ratifying it would be bound by its provisions.
What is the deadline for ratification?
Countries can ratify anytime after signing the agreement. Some small island countries like Marshall Islands, Barbados, Fiji, Tuvalu and Mauritius which are more threatened by climate change has ratified it immediately after signing it along with Palestine and Somalia.
But these countries together account for just 0.04 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions .
Unlike the signing process, which is open only until April 21, 2017, there is no specific deadline for ratification. It is expected that the dual conditions — minimum 55 countries with at least 55 per cent of global emissions — would be met before the lapse of the Kyoto Protocol in 2020, thereby bringing the Paris Agreement in effect. Countries can keep ratifying and joining the Agreement later as well.
Countries which didn’t sign it
About 15-20 — among them, major oil producing states like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Nigeria and Kazakhstan, whose economies are likely to take a substantial hit because of a faster shift to renewable energies dictated by climate change. War-torn Syria and Yemen also did not show up. Neither did Kazakhstan’s neighbours in central Asia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Some Key elements of the deal
The long-term objective of the agreement is to make sure global warming stays “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and to “pursue efforts” to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit)
By some point after 2050, the agreement says, man-made emissions should be reduced to a level that forests and oceans can absorb.
In order to reach the long-term goal, countries agreed to set national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years.
Only developed countries are expected to slash their emissions in absolute terms; developing nations are “encouraged” to do so as their capabilities evolve over time. Until then, they are expected only to rein in the growth of emissions as their economies develop.
The agreement asks governments to review their targets in the next four years and see if they can “update” them. That doesn’t require governments to deepen their cuts. But the hope is that it will be possible for them to do so if renewable energy sources become more affordable and effective.
There is no penalty for countries that miss their emissions targets. But the agreement has transparency rules to help encourage countries to actually do what they say they will do.
The agreement says wealthy countries should continue to offer financial support to help poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.
It also encourages other countries to pitch in on a voluntary basis. That paves the way for emerging economies such as China to contribute, even though it doesn’t require them to do so.
Actual dollar amounts were kept out of the agreement itself, but wealthy nations had previously pledged to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020.
LOSS AND DAMAGE:
In a victory for small island nations threatened by rising seas, the agreement includes a section recognizing “loss and damage” associated with climate-related disasters. The U.S. long objected to addressing the issue in the agreement, worried that it would lead to claims of compensation for damage caused by extreme weather events. In the end, the issue was included, but a footnote specifically stated that loss and damage does not involve liability or compensation.