After two weeks of intense negotiations the world witnessed Paris Climate Accord. This accord has been widely hailed by the world leaders and defined as a 'major leap for mankind'. In addition, influential Western media praised the accord defining it as a 'historic' one to save the humanity. But the critical questions which still remain are: Has the Paris climate deal addressed the needs of the planet? What's about the climate justice? And why did not the world witness any full legal binding agreement to cut carbon emission to save the humanity? This write up is an attempt to finding answer to these questions.
Before looking into the Paris Climate Accord, it needs to be looked at what actually happened in the two weeks long environmental negotiations in Paris? Paris climate talks (November 30 to December 11, 2015), popularly known as COP-21, was held in Le Bourget, Paris in the presence of more than 190 heads of state and hundreds of non-state actors. The Paris climate talks, however, went into overtime due to divisions on three major issues, ie the differentiation between developed and developing nations, financial arrangements for the developing world and the ambition for a global temperature target. In fact, 'global environmental politics' has made the Paris climate talks longer and most difficult to reach an agreement. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has identified the Paris climate talks as 'the most complicated, most difficult'.
If one looks to the past, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol included only the rich nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as they are historically responsible for global warming and climate change. In Paris climate talks, it is manifested that the developed nations attempted to shift their historical responsibility of burden sharing to all the nations in the world, particularly the emerging economies, like India and China. Thus a bloc of hard-line countries, including China, India, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, 'have put up the fiercest resistance against attempts by the US, the European Union and other wealthy nations to make emerging economies pitch in to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and help the poorest countries cope with climate change' (New York Times, December 11, 2015).
Finally, after two weeks of intense negotiations, a final draft text has been agreed by the countries. The measures that are included in the agreement include: i) To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century; ii) To keep global temperature increase 'well below' 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C; iii) To review progress every five years; and iv) to arrange US$100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.
Though the deal looks apparently great and has been hailed by the world leaders, including President Obama, it needs to be looked into critically for the greater interests of the humanity. If one looks into it critically, there is no legal binding agreement to cut carbon emission in the deal. Besides, there is no reference of 'climate refugees' in the accord which is in fact, worrying, particularly for countries like Bangladesh, where a one metre sea level rise could lead to millions of climate refugees and a loss of 50 per cent of our rice farming land.
Furthermore, there is no specific timeframe or plan of action. The accord is full of promises rather than concrete actions. I think it is an eye-wash to the world that Paris climate talk is a successful event to save the humanity as little substantive will happen until 2020; as clear deadlines for specific targets are absent. Besides, the text suffers from vagueness on the overall ambition.
In a quick response, Dr James E Hansen from Earth Institute at Columbia University opines, 'It's a fraud really, a fake. It's just bullshit for them to say: "We'll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years."' 'It's just worthless words. There is no action, just promises'. Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace international
director, claims "The nations that cause this [global warming] problem have promised too little help to those people who are already losing their lives and livelihoods." Thus, it can be argued that the accord will not address the realities of climate change and will only serve the interests of the West, polluter countries, which needs to be checked.
What can be done?
The devastating impact of global warming and climate change is prevalent today. Thus, it is not a prediction anymore but reality. To save the humanity, there is no alternative to cut carbon emission. In fact, the industrially developed states need to bear the responsibility of burden sharing as it is argued that today's changes to climate are attributed to the historical stock of greenhouse gases emitted after the industrial revolution by them. And the developing, coastal and island states are experiencing its consequences, ie intense weather events like cyclone Sidr or Chennai floods.
The states need to come out from realist or neo-realist paradigm to define their national interests. The well-being of the planet needs to be taken into account to save the humanity from the negative consequences of global warming and climate change rather than concentrating on narrowly defined national interests of concerned countries. Any divide, whether North-South or South-South in global environmental negotiation is counterproductive to the planet which needs to be removed.
In international politics, environmental issue has been a neglected area. Till today, it is neglected. For example, it is quite pathetic that while the world military spending in 2014 only was estimated at US$ 1.76 trillion, the amount of green climate funds till 2015 is US$ 10.5 billion, though the latter one is more important to the tens of thousands climate vulnerable people in the world and the world per se than the former one. Hence, to save the humanity, we need to stop politics over global environment, and take concrete actions avoiding rhetoric.
Md Shariful Islam is Founder Lecturer, Department of International Relations, University of Rajshahi.
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