The vast majority of the world is aware of climate change, how it affects us currently and how it will affect us in the future. However, with the shocking statement by Trump that climate change was a ‘hoax’, focus turned to the Paris Agreement. This Agreement was negotiated nearly a year ago and several nations have begun to ratify it. The Paris deal is the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement between nations and will give each country an obligation to achieve the set goal of keeping global warming below 2 degree Celsius.
It has been agreed by nearly 200 countries (in December 2015), and it came into force on 4th November 2016. Although the Paris Agreement is not legally binding, the way the pledge has been structured includes a clause for increasing the pledges and goals further that is binding. There is also a ‘Zero Emissions’ net goal which would mean that reliance on fossil fuels will be unacceptable.
Climate change is a serious matter that the world faces – with rising temperatures and greenhouse gases, scientists warn that a 2-degree increase in temperature can have catastrophic effects on the planet and our environment. Although the agreement obliges countries to keep the world under 2 degrees the central (more ambitious) goal is 1.5 degrees.
To be more specific and provide an example from Article 2, the goals set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are:
“(a) 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, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”
Although many see these agreements as the first major steps in cleaning up our planet and tackling climate change on a serious scale, Trump’s recent comments have caused concern that the US would pull out of the agreements and that one of the largest superpowers in the world would turn back to coal and cause more damage than can be fixed. He has, however, seemingly backed out of his promise to cancel the agreements, however, he has reinforced his message to cancel funding for clean energy projects. Even if he does cancel the agreement there is a 3 year cancellation period that must be adhered to, he could potentially ruin the federal agencies that are trying to be greener and make the US more environmentally friendly. Most notably he could potentially cancel Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would help cut the emissions of each state. The scrapping of this plan would make the ability to meet the requirements set out by the Paris Agreement very difficult to achieve.
For the moment, the Greener community remains worried (sceptical at best) of Trump’s intentions. On the other hand, people are praising those nations who have already ratified the Paris Agreement and are working towards reducing their greenhouse emissions.
What about the UK?
As of the 18th of November the UK has ratified the agreement with no objections raised throughout the 21 day period of scrutiny.
Barry Gardiner, shadow minister for international climate change, said: “This strong signal of the UK’s commitment to international co-operation on climate change is even more important following the US election. The UK Government must now show their commitment through climate action on the ground. We face a 47% shortfall to meet our 2030 climate target.”
The Climate Minister Nick Hurd said: “The UK is ratifying the Paris Agreement so that we can help to accelerate global action on climate change and deliver on our commitments to create a safer, more prosperous future for us all. We are going to use this positive momentum to grow the UK low-carbon sector, which is already worth over £46bn, as we continue to provide secure, affordable and clean energy to our families and businesses.”
The Answer to our Question.
So now to answer the big question: why do we need the Paris Agreement? Apart from trying to create a sustainable future for everyone, the UK needs it. Over the past few years, we have been seeing hotter summers each year (with 2014 being the hottest year for 350 years). This has been attributed to global warming. As a cause of climate change, we are seeing an increasing number of storms and floods hitting the British Isles. However, if that wasn’t enough how about greenhouse gases killing us?
The European Environment Agency said the UK had 11,940 premature deaths in 2013 from nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic gas mostly caused by diesel vehicles and linked to lung problems.
This is the second worst in Europe (with Italy being higher). Active efforts to lowering our greenhouse gases, use renewable energy and keep the planet’s temperature down, we can literally save lives. Under the Kyoto agreement, The UK Government has a commitment to reduce CO2 equivalent emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 and by 50% on 1990 levels by 2025.The Paris Agreement merely emphasises the need and gives us help that we can use.
After the agreement was ratified world leaders met in Marrakech to discuss further the details of the agreement and although many felt little progress was made, the wheels have definitely been set in motion that will work towards a greener, more sustainable future for the planet.