Paris Agreement: No big losers at COP21, here’s how everyone won something

No country or group had an outright victory on any of the contentious issues, and at the same time each of them had something to crow about.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Updated: December 14, 2015 2:40 pm
paris climate conference, paris news, UN climate conference, koyoto protocol, UN climate news, paris climate summit news, world news, latest news Environmental activists create a message of hope in Paris. (Source: Reuters)

The Paris Agreement would not have been possible if the countries had not resorted to the strategy of win some, lose some and compromise on others. No country or group had an outright victory on any of the contentious issues, and at the same time each of them had something to crow about. Here is how some important issues were settled.

Watch video: Paris Agreement & Its Impact On India

This was the all-important issue as far as developing countries, including India, were concerned. Developing countries wanted the developed world to take greater responsibility for climate actions, guilty as they are for emitting almost all of the greenhouse gases from about 1850 to the 1980s. They wanted provisions of the agreement to reflect the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) enshrined in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992.

* The Paris Agreement invokes the CBDR principle four times.

* In many places, the differentiation is brought about by having different kind of commitments for developed and developing countries. In some places, the requirements of least developed countries (LDCs) and small island developing states (SIDS) have been kept in mind.

* On mitigation: Developed countries have been asked to take “economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets” while developing countries have only been “encouraged” to “move over time” to do so.

* On finance: Developed countries have to provide financial resources to help developing countries in dealing with climate change, including for adaptation measures. Developing countries have also been “encouraged” to provide climate finance, but on a voluntary basis. Developed countries will have to communicate every two years the “indicative” amount of money that they would be able to raise over the next two years, and information about how much of this would come from public financial sources. Developing countries have only been “encouraged” to provide such information every two years on a voluntary basis.

* On capacity building: Developed countries have been asked to provide support, financial and technological, for capacity building actions in developing countries.

Also read: All is well for India in deal, except coal line

This is the other big issue on which developed and developing countries were in disagreement. The UNFCCC mandates the developed world to provide money to the developing countries to help them fight climate change. In 2009, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that developed nations would “mobilise” $100 billion every year from 2020 as climate finance.

* Developed nations have been asked to provide financial resources, but the $100 billion does not figure in the agreement. It has been shifted to the “decision text”, which lists all the decisions taken by the conference, on the insistence of the developed countries. Adoption of the Paris Agreement is one of those decisions. The Paris Agreement is a permanent document while the decisions of a conference can be modified.

* Still, the implication is that the developed countries will provide US $ 100 billion every year from 2020. But they will not scale it up from the subsequent year as was being demanded by developing countries. The scaling up will happen only after 2025, and the higher amount will be decided later.

* Developed countries have been asked to provide a “concrete roadmap” to achieve the US $ 100 billion goal, but the time within which this has to be done is not specified.

* Allocation of financial resources has to be balanced between the mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries

* Developed countries have succeeded in inserting a provision asking developing countries to also raise financial resources, even as a voluntary effort.

Also read | Shall/should: The world between a wrong word

Temperature goal
The LDCs and SIDS have been demanding that the world must strive to keep rising temperatures to within 1.5 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times, and not 2 degrees. Many SIDS face rising sea levels, while LDCs fear that the cost of adaptation would be high if temperatures are allowed to rise to 2 degrees above the pre-industrial ceiling.

* The agreement has come up with a compromise by mentioning both targets. Its objective is to keep global average temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees while “pursuing efforts” to keep it below 1.5.

* It also “notes with concern” that the climate action plans submitted by the countries were not enough to keep temperatures below 2 degrees, leave alone 1.5 degrees.

Intended nationally determined contributions, or INDCs

In the run-up to the Paris conference, 186 countries submitted their INDCs, giving information about the climate actions they planned to take until 2025 or 2030. These would henceforth be called only NDCs.

* Every country has been asked to communicate an NDC every five years. Next year’s climate change conference in Morocco will decide whether all countries should be submitting NDCs for the same timeframe.

* Each NDC has to be progressively more ambitious than the previous one.

* Countries which have submitted NDCs for the period up to 2025 would need to come up with a new NDC by 2020. Countries that have 2030 as their timeframe can update their NDCs by 2020 if they want to.

* All NDCs will be recorded in a public registry.