By Edward Shen | 沈埃迪
Following the adoption of the Paris Agreement on climate change on 12 December 2015, it was hailed as “a monumental triumph for people and our planet” by United Nations Secretary–General Ban Ki-moon.
For the first time, 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), representing near universal membership, reached solid agreement on all key points. But is it too little too late? How is the Paris approach different from the previous attempts to reach agreement?
It took 24 years for the evolution of the global climate effort to reach Paris. (Fig. 1)
Negotiations started in 1991 and established in 1992 at the Rio Convention a basic system of governance but with no binding emission targets (Act Ⅰ). The 1997 Kyoto Protocol adopted a top-down regulatory approach with agreed limits on GHG emission, legally binding detailed rules, rigorous accounting and compliance mechanism, and with strong differentiation between developed and developing countries. Kyoto adopted strong legal and technical rigor but resulted in shrinking participation with reduction targets covered only 13% of global emissions (ActⅡ). (Fig. 2)
Copenhagen/Cancún 2009 took on a bottom-up approach with parallel nonbinding framework established via political agreement at Copenhagen followed by a set of COP decisions at Cancún. Copenhagen/Cancún invited broad participation but settled for low ambition with emission pledge falling well short of 2℃ pathway (Act Ⅲ). (Fig. 3)
ActⅣ was setoff by the 2011 Durban Platform for Enhanced Action with agreement to be reached by COP21 at Paris and implementation from 2020. What then was envisaged for 2015 Paris that was not achievable by the earlier summits? What strategy and role was played out by the international climate regime this time?
It becomes clear from this evolution process that there are but three roles the international climate regime can play out.
1. A prescriptive model that imposes obligations that make some countries better off and others worst off. A prescriptive model not necessarily would produce compliance.
2. A contractual model memorializes commitments by States in exchange for commitments by other. As climate change issues are driven by domestic politics, for any agreement to succeed， it has to leave all participants better off and are acceptable domestically.
3. A facilitative model has to be based on States willing to take action on their own. The international regime can help catalyzes, encourage and reinforce action through assistance and by soft pressure through transparency in implementation.
It was obvious then that the Paris summit needs to adopt a hybrid approach that combines the top-down and bottom-up approach. On the one hand it should allow national flexibility to promote participation, encourage experimentation and enhance greater ambition, on the other hand it should adopt prescriptive International Rules to attain transparency, accountability and reciprocity. Such ground work was laid down before Paris, in Warsaw in 2013 and in Lima in 2014 where parties were invited to communicate their “intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs)” to the new agreement in advance of Paris. Hence Paris’s outcome was a package with a number of different elements- a core agreement which will be a treaty within the meaning of international law, an ancillary instrument to house NDCs, and COP decisions adopted at COP21 or thereafter.
So what are the most significant aspects about the new Paris agreement?
The agreement sends out a positive message to the world that countries are serious about addressing climate change. The agreement provides a way forward to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees, may be even 1.5. It is an ambitious, dynamic and universal agreement that covers all countries and all emissions and contains a transparency framework to build mutual trust and confidence. The agreement requires all countries to take action, while recognizing their differing situations and circumstances. It provides a binding requirement to assess and review progress on the countries’ action plans and will require countries to continuously upgrade their commitments and will not allow backtracking. (Fig. 4)
The Paris Agreement is a legal instrument that will guide the process for universally acting on climate change. It is a hybrid of legally binding and non-binding provisions based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and capacities in the light of different national circumstances. How can Paris get us to the 2 degree or even 1.5 degree goal then?
The world did not expect the Paris Agreement to secure commitments to immediately reach that goal, but rather agree on a process that will get us there. With the Agreement, the world can say we have a chance now to reach our goal which we couldn’t say if there were no-agreement. Decisions to give effect to the Agreement include clauses on measures of mitigation, adaptation, loss and damages, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, transparency of action and support, global stocktake, and facilitating implementation and compliance. While the agreement does not take effect until 2020, provision for Enhanced Action prior to 2020 is given so that implementation begins tomorrow including countries will need to mobilize resources, including the $100 billion pledged by developed countries. Countries agreed in Paris to take rigorous action to promote climate action, ramp up financing and begin implementation of respective climate plans. In 2018 countries will have an opportunity to review their collective effort against the global goals prior to formally submitting their national contributions to the new agreement and this exercise will be repeated every five years.
It is a scientifically proven and accepted fact that the world has already warmed by 0.85 degrees since industrialization and the pace is picking up. Is it too little too late? What seems to be the undeniable truth is the more we delay, the more we pay. Whether it is doable, taking climate action now is absolutely imperative to halt the extreme weather events due to ACD impacts and the consequential calamities brought to humankind and this planet we all call our home.
全球针对气候变化所作出的努力由开始到今年的巴黎峰会已经历了24年的发展演变。 (图1)谈判开始自1991年并在1992年里约峰会上制定了一套基本的管理制度， 但并没有设定任何具法律约束力的碳排放目标(行动Ⅰ)。1997年的《京都协议书》采用了由上而下的规管方法，并协定温室气体排放上限，具法律约束力的详细条文，设定严格的计算标准和合规管理机制，和明确区分发展国家和发展中国家的角色地位。 《京都协议书》采用强有力的法律和技术标准，但结果导致参与的成员数目萎缩，最后参与的成员只能代表全球碳排放量的13%而已(行动Ⅱ)。 (图2)
2011德班峰会发起了行动Ⅳ，进一步加强各国间的碳减排行动，并决议在第二十一届巴黎气候峰会时达成最终协议，及由2020年开始实施。 对那些先前未能达到目标的峰会，我们对这次巴黎峰会寄予什么期待呢？ 国际气候组织曾采取什么策略及以什么角色去完成使命呢？
很显然巴黎峰会需要采取一种混合式的方法。这将结合了自上而下和自下而上的两种方法，一方面允许国家具弹性地去参与，勇于作出尝试和提高志向抱负，另一方面加上法规性的国际条例，以体现透明的问责性和互惠性。在巴黎峰会召开前，这些工作早在2013年的华沙峰会和2014年的利马峰会已经奠定了基础，缔约成员提前被邀请去交流及提议他们个别的“国家自主贡献预案（INDC）”，故此巴黎峰会的结果是一个带有不同元素的综合协议 – 一个具国际法规地位的核心盟约，盟约内的附件以刊载各国的“自主贡献建议”，和第二十一届气候峰会和之后订定的各项决议。
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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change FCCC/cp/2015/L.9/Rev.1 Previewing the Paris Climate Change Conference by Daniel Bodansky, Arizona State University