6.7.5.4 The Paris Accord on Climate Change

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/6754.htm)

As described in the previous section (6.7.5.3), climate change is a controversial subject.  It is clearly a global issue, but there are difficulties reaching agreement on what steps to take, if any, to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases.  National politicians are not the best people to conduct negotiations because they have to prioritise their national interests (6.6.4.2).  Their need for domestic popularity can either cause them to ignore the interests of the world as a whole or to seek approval by posturing as saviours.

Nevertheless, they have made significant progress: “On 12 December 2015, 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Accord, a new legally-binding framework for an internationally coordinated effort to tackle climate change.” [1]  The abbreviation COP21 refers to the fact that the agreement was reached at the 21st “Conference of the Parties” participating in the negotiations.

“The Agreement establishes a global warming goal of well below 2°C on pre-industrial averages” and “all Parties to the Paris Accord will need to make profound changes to their economies”.  Countries will each make their own plans, which take account of their different situations, and will offer their “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) to the UN.

It is intended that the NDCs will be progressively tightened and that they can be traded.  This gives a flexible, but legally binding, framework for global cooperation.  Its lack of rigidity makes it more likely to succeed than the firm targets which were set by the earlier Kyoto Protocol and it might encourage private enterprise to develop cost-effective solutions.

The UNFCCC operates a newsroom to publish its progress.

In June 2017, the BBC reported Paris climate deal: Dismay as Trump signals exit from accord – fulfilling his election pledge.  This will reduce the accord’s effectiveness, although parts of America will nonetheless try to meet their targets without federal support: as reported by Medium.com on 1 June 2016, under the heading 246 US Climate Mayors commit to adopt, honor and uphold Paris Climate Agreement goals.  They were “representing 56 million Americans” and their statement ended by saying “The world cannot wait — and neither will we”.

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[1] The Paris Accord on climate change was available in October 2018 at https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf.  A “Client Brief” summary, from which quotations have been taken, was available then at https://climatefocus.com/sites/default/files/20151228%20COP%2021%20briefing%20FIN.pdf and the easy-to-read BBC explanation was at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35092127.