1 October, 2020

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Paris Agreement On Climate Change & The Need For Domestic Actions

By Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha Wijenayake

The Paris Agreement focusing on climate change and ways to address its adverse impacts was adopted on the 12th December 2015. It provides both binding and voluntary measures to address the objective of limiting the rise of global temperatures “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels, with the background target being 1.5°C”. The Agreement will be legally binding upon ratification by at least 55 countries that represents 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and will be the basis for the work ahead on climate change. While needing further development in the coming years through domestic actions, and further decisions to be developed within the process, the Agreement will be addressing its objective of addressing climate change at the global level, and highlights issues such as food security, human rights and climate justice, as well as livelihood quality jobs.

Key Features of the Agreement

The Agreement is considered by many as providing hope and means to address the impacts of climate change, having gained the support of 195 countries for its adoption. In its purpose, which is formed with a sense of aspiration, the countries are provided with self-differentiation on its responsibilities. (The historic responsibility based method not in its rigid form as wished by many). The common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities defined under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) though not completely abandoned, could also be interpreted as not present in its strongest form in the Paris Agreement. This being one of the reasons as to why some groups feel that the outcome of the Paris negotiations on climate change is not cause for euphoria. Among other aspects criticised being the lack of financial commitments, and the non-inclusion of liability and compensation for loss and damage.

  • Mitigation:

On mitigation, the system is “bottom-up” (the countries needing to take actions, than being bound at the international level to prescribed to take actions) and the mitigation obligations for countries is through the communication of national determined contributions every five years. The countries are required to “pursue” domestic actions to achieve the objective of achieving the contributions listed in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) which were submitted to the UNFCCC as their voluntary contributions to bring down the global emission levels of greenhouse gases causing climate change. A sign that if the world is to achieve the objective of keeping the global temperature increase to 1.5 C, then the countries will need to take more ambitious actions at the national level to reduce their emission levels.

  • Adaptation:

Adaptation, the way to address the already existing impacts of climate change by adjusting to them and changes made to exist with those impacts is one of the key elements for countries vulnerable to climate change. Under the UNFCCC, the developed countries had agreed to support the adaptation efforts of developing countries. This includes financial and technical support to developing countries for appropriate actions, and efforts to adapt to the impacts felt in their countries. The Paris Agreement though providing for the continuation of obligation by developed countries to provide financial and technical support to developing countries does not provide for clear and predictable financial support by the developed countries.

  • Loss and Damage:

Addressing the losses and damages caused by climate change in developing countries has been one of the key issues of the Paris negotiations. There has been a strong call for the recognition of loss and damage, separately from adaptation and as a separate element of the Agreement from developing countries. While the Agreement was successful in identifying loss and damage as a separate element from adaptation, the question on liability and compensation for loss and damage remains not answered. Further, there is an exclusion for compensation and liability which through the decision of the Paris outcome. The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) which was set up to address loss and damage, at the 19th conference of parties (COP) of the UNFCCC will further operate under the Paris Agreement. In order to address climate induced displacement, the Executive Board of the WIM is to establish a task force tasked with developing recommendations and approaches to address this issue.

  • Compliance

The inclusion of compliance as part of the Agreement has survived. However in a non-punitive, non-judicial way, despite the call for setting up a climate justice tribunal by some parties. Compliance is intended to be facilitative and linked with the obligation under the section on transparency which is on all Parties to report their mitigation efforts, and for developed country parties to report on support for finance, capacity building and technology transfer, the word compliance is found for a mechanism to facilitate implementation and promote compliance. In order to ensure that compliance remains an important element of the Agreement, more time will need to be invested in developing the ways for its effective implementation.

Paris Agreement and Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka as an island state is vulnerable to impacts of climate change. Adverse impacts of climate change are already felt in the country, and with the potential for temperature increase, if concrete actions are not taken to reduce emission levels of greenhouse gases, the country will be at a more vulnerable stage to these adverse impacts. This heightens the importance of the Paris Agreement, and the need for ambitious actions of Parties to it.

Sri Lanka at the climate negotiations has been negotiating as part of the G77 and China, as well as the Like Minded Developing Countries. The country has submitted it INDCs prior to the negotiations, and the contributions include both mitigation and adaptation ones, also highlights the need to address loss and damage. Sri Lanka has also developed its National Adaptation Plan which is to be launched, and will be the basis for measures to be taken on adapting to climate change. With the Presidential manifesto highlighting the need for a shift to renewable energy, which falls in line with the efforts on climate change mitigation, it will be important to see how the actions will be taken to achieve the domestic targets in a participatory manner, through a multi-stake holder driven transparent and accountable process.

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Latest comments

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    “With the Presidential manifesto highlighting the need for a shift to renewable energy, which falls in line with the efforts on climate change mitigation, it will be important to see how the actions will be taken to achieve the domestic targets in a participatory manner, through a multi-stake holder driven transparent and accountable process.”

    The controversial Port City Project isn’t exactly an example of “the actions (that) will be taken to achieve the domestic targets in a participatory manner, through a multi-stake holder driven transparent and accountable process”.

    “Transparent and accountable processes” appear to be extinct species in our polity!

  • 4
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    Dear Ms Wijenayake

    I am probably older than your father and I write with the genuine intention of giving you advice as a father would, to his daughter. I must say I am warmed by your concern about the futuer of life on planet earth and adding your bit to demand action by our government. But this is about your perception of an impending calalmity and to try and show that the devil may not be as black as we are made to believe.

    I warn by pointing out that views such as various US/UN organised conferences “providing hope and means to address the impacts of climate change” are borne by ignorance of the dishonesty of the climate change scare, its lack of scientific foundation and the ulterior US motives behind it.

    The so-called ‘scientific proof’ of global warming and predictions of dire consequences of climate change simply does not exist, and is classic “pseudoscience”. I am saying this as ascientist with over 30 years of trainign and work experience in a number of countries.

    There has never been a distinct scientific field of climate “science” and the vast majority of peddlers of climate doom and gloom are computer programmers, geologists, economists, sociologists, and environmental activists with no scientific qualifications at all.

    The main characteristic that distinguishes the scientific method from other methods is the test of reality itself. The predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) of the UN generated by computer models (garbage-in, garbage-out), but presented as the ‘consensus view’ of world’s “top climate scientists”. In the 1990s, the IPCC was adamant that the global climate would warm by 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade. It has only risen at a third of the predicted rate since then. Theyn they switched to claiming that the frequency of ‘extreme events’ was the result of climate change. Since 1998, however, there have been fewer major droughts and heatwaves than in earlier decades.

    In summary, the hypothesis that a rising carbon dioxide concentrations cause a rise in global temperatures is not proven. It is not a scientific theory because it does not pass the key test of science, test of “deniablity”. In fact the evidence ‘against’ a global warming keeps mounting.

    Climate change campaigners attempt to make up for lack of scientific credentials and proof by citing the majority support of the so-called scientists. But that does not make anything “science”. Mind you, Galileo was stoned for his minority view!

    The discussion on “climate change” never includes the view that it could be natural. Those who oppose this hypothesis are called “deniers” and portrayed as extremist who compete with scientific “fact”.

    It also came out in 2011 that a group of British and US operators at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia in Britain – the site of the ‘confidential’ dataset of land and sea temperature recordings – have been fiddling data (called “value adding”) to make the claimed global warming threat a scare story.Such measures are necessary because measuring the “average” temperatures in oceans and land based on measures taken at different spots of a dynamic system like the earth is ‘pure rubbish’ in science terms!

    Leaked emails show that the computer programmer responsible for creating the “hockey stick” graph – used by the IPCC to show that global temperatures had suddenly soared upwards in the late 20th century was a fraud. Michael Mann of the Pennsylvania State University is charged with creating a computer model programmed to produce hockey stick shapes irrespective of the nature of data fed into it.

    A recent Swedish study by scientist Leif Kullman reports that the planet was warmer by about 2.3°C in ancient Roman times and the Middle Ages when humans were not burning large amounts fossil fuels. This was followed by a gradual cooling period.

    Many scientists who view climate change as a “natural phenomenon” see the current warming cycle to end up approximately 0.9 degrees Celsius. They humbly claim ignorance about its causes, some pointing to solar activity and believe that falling sunspot activity as evidence that the planet will cool off in the coming decades.

    In the meantime, US is trying to stop China and India developing by pointing to damamge to climate, so they can maintain their hegemony.

    What all this is pointing to, Miss Wijenayake, is that developing countries have to take a broader view of climate change, drawing from their religious and cultural traditions. Many cultures have historically concerned themselves with rain, drought, floods, bushfires, and other such events, referring to them as changeable as life itself, with adapting for the changes rather than panicking about it and formulating theories based on unsound information and measurements.

    So dear Ms Wijenayaje, don’t loose sleep over the “sky falling down” while you are sleeping, or there not being a “world to wake up to” for you.

    When you find time, please read the Buddha’s preachings to the Kalamas (Kalama Sutra) on what to believe and what not to believe in this world. That will be a great lesson in life for an intelligent young lady like you.

    All the best.

    • 0
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      Scientist – Could you then explain the reasons for the melting of the polar ice-caps?

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        JJ, Thanks for bringing up one of the key anchors of the scare campaign, the so-called melting of ice caps drying out rivers and raising sea levels, and causinf wars etc.

        Latest data from NASA satellites reveal the Earth’s polar ice caps have not receded at all since measuring began in 1979. Not only that,since 2013, total polar ice cap has remained above the post-1979 average.

        This data gives the lie to cries about global warming causing the polar ice caps to melt.

        Updated NASA satellite data show the polar ice caps remained at approximately their 1979 extent until the middle of the last decade. Beginning in 2005, however, polar ice modestly receded for several years. By 2012, polar sea ice had receded by approximately 10 percent from 1979 measurements. (Total polar ice area – factoring in both sea and land ice – had receded by much less than 10 percent, but alarmists focused on the sea ice loss as “proof” of a global warming crisis.)Al Gore even predicted the Arctic ice cap could completely disappear by 2014.(In his 2007 Noble Prize acceptance speech, he warned that the “Arctic ice could be gone in as little as seven years.”)

        In late 2012, however, polar ice dramatically rebounded and quickly surpassed the post-1979 average. Ever since, the polar ice caps have been at a greater average extent than the post-1979 mean.

        Now, in May 2015, the updated NASA data show polar sea ice is approximately 5 percent above the post-1979 average.

        So there you are. If you seek you find!

        • 0
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          Thanks Scientist. And in between my question and receiving your answer, I checked http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamestaylor/2015/05/19/updated-nasa-data-polar-ice-not-receding-after-all/, and got the same info!

          Sought and found!!

          Cheers!

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            JJ – you really should not trust what lobbyists for the heartland institute and Forbes magazine alone are saying – the author in your citation from Forbes magazine may have done a bachelors in politics and atoms science but after that he is a lawyer. Go to the source of the data and see for yourself – about whats happening with the arctic sea ice.

            http://neptune.gsfc.nasa.gov/csb/index.php?section=234

            The arguments by
            “scientist” is fascinating -but mistaken in many places – there is a whole literature out there on
            climate change “alarmism” such as the Heartland Institute which can mislead as to where the evidence and consensus are. So its easy with internet research to quickly come to a position that one is pre-disposed of either way that one wants. You shall see that Forbes magazine owned by Steve Forbes (billionaire climate denier) has all the facts organized if you want to go on this route of debunking the consensus.

            “Scientist” has written an entire article of his own here in comments – no time to counter the many problems here apart from pointing out the polar sea ice data –
            the “comment” has several faulty premises even as its is well presented and rigorously argued albeit a bit paternalistically – I wish the author responds to it. This is an important issue that should not be kept hanging by folks who speak on behalf of climate change action.

  • 0
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    Paris was a gas. In the end, with media help, the whole event was presented as a drama with a nail-biting last minute ‘agreement’. The key players and their ‘athuddawa’s’ went home well-fed and satisfied. The City of Lights had a much needed boost to its economy (suffering after the recent atrocities).

    So what is in it for Sri Lanka?

    Not much really. Like others we signed up. We couldn’t not. Like others much lip service will be paid to the actions needed. In Sri Lanka, political dictat will always trump whatever agreements have made elsewhere. As was with the Geneva Convention, so with any on Climate Change.

    Let us just build bigger drains to take the flood waters away when the rains come more frequently.

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    “Sri Lanka at the climate negotiations has been negotiating as part of the G77 and China, as well as the Like Minded Developing Countries. The country has submitted it INDCs prior to the negotiations, and the contributions include both mitigation and adaptation ones, also highlights the need to address loss and damage. Sri Lanka has also developed its National Adaptation Plan which is to be launched, and will be the basis for measures to be taken on adapting to climate change. With the Presidential manifesto highlighting the need for a shift to renewable energy, which falls in line with the efforts on climate change mitigation, it will be important to see how the actions will be taken to achieve the domestic targets in a participatory manner, through a multi-stake holder driven transparent and accountable process”.

    I have been asking the President’s Media Advisers why there was no discussion of the issue of ‘Climate Negotiations’ in the Sri Lankan printed/electronic media or in the social media whereas they saw to publicity was given to President Sirisena’s speech at the Pars confab. This was against the background of continuing publicity given in other countries to the follow-up discussions which followed the Heads of States’ contributions. In our neighbouring big country, India, the subject was discussed almost daily in the printed media.

    Now I see this contribution by Voshita at least/at last raising the importance of the issues for Sri Lanka.An article also appeared in The Island newspaper a few days back,at long last. Someone in a Googles Discussions Circle responded to me saying my question should have been posed to the Media Sources than to the President’s Media Office which is interested in propaganda [for the President]. Could be true but a continuing discussion in the media sponsored by the Prez’s Media Unit could have added weight to Prez’s statement that we in SL are serious about the issues discussed.

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    I am told that Prof WL Sumathipala, who attended the Paris Discussions, would be making a presentation at the OPA in January 2016. It will not be an open event because the occasion is unveiling of the portrait of a Past President.

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