Reflection on Paris Agreement: Part 1

December 12, 2015 marks an emotional anchor for people involve in climate change. When the clock strike 7 in the evening, the Paris Agreement was born. I was watching through webcast, I could heard copious cheer and clapping in the plenary hall. I spotted some of the delegates broke down in tears. Whether it was a joyful tear or a miserable one, I yet to know the answer.

I would say nothing is perfect. It is clear that this newborn “baby” should be a cause for both the good and, the bad. This article will focus on my personal reflection on the good side of Paris Agreement.

7th article picture

1) Ambitious temperature goal
Prior to arriving at Paris for COP21, I was wondering whether all Parties will agree on 2 °C. The line “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” secured its way into the final text (Article 2; page 22). I did not see that coming.

In plain text, all Parties agreed to limit the temperature increase to below 2 °C and if possible aimed to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. The agreement put a solid figure on the amount of GHG emission allowed to be released, which is 40 gigatonnes (page 4).

2) Welcome back multilateral-ism, at least for now
Let us wind back the clock for a glimpse of history. 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) was deemed as a setback due to the leaked of “Copenhagen Accord” that will cause economic handicap to developing country, if ratified. “Danish Text” is a proposal written by US and England and submitted to Denmark. The text which was done secretly, proposed that developed countries are able to pollute twice the amount of developing countries till 2050. As a result, developing countries became indignant that the text was developed, without their knowledge and, without discussion in the negotiations. (For more info, please click here). Due to the collapse of COP15, the parties were forced to go back to the drawing board and multilateral process was literally “doom”.

Followed by COP16, or also known as Cancun Agreement, which put an agreed distinct figure on keeping the maximum average global temperature rise as 2 °C, COP17 launched a new platform termed the Durban Platform. This new protocol comes with new round of negotiation with new tracks to produce the now famous, Paris Agreement. It took 5 years to build back the trust among parties. As a result, the Paris Agreement was successfully adopted. This is definitely something we should celebrate for.

3) Accepted by all Parties
Paris Agreement is accepted and approved by 196 countries Parties, making it the largest universal [legally binding] agreement. As compared to Kyoto Protocol, Paris agreement will also be the first, that is able to “call” the rich and poor to take action to limit GHG emissions and to save the world together.

The agreement is seen as an achievement to Obama administration as it need not undergo the Senate’s advice and consent process. Majority of the Senate, are Republicans, who dispute the fact that climate change is caused by anthropological activities. They are climate change deniers. For more information regarding this, you may read from here.

A new working group called Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement will be established. I am not sure about the actual abbreviation but I would like to name it as APA. Why APA? Because it is an Agreement to Protect All. (I know it is lame, but please bear with me.) ‘Apa’ in Malaysian language also means ‘what’. So what is the function of Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement?

The following bullet lists are extracted from the the main text and edited accordingly.

  • shall prepare for the entry into force of the Agreement and for the convening of the first session of the COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement;
  • to oversee the implementation of the work programme resulting from the relevant requests contained in this decision;
  • to report regularly to the COP on the progress of its work and to complete its work by the first session of the COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement;
  • shall hold its sessions starting in 2016 in conjunction with the sessions of the Convention subsidiary bodies and shall prepare draft decisions to be recommended through the COP

For my next article, I will be writing on the downside of the agreement; to create a fair view, for readers to weigh on the pros and cons.

Written by: Thomas Lai
Edited by: Merryn Choong

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