The UN climate summit in Paris in December 2015 adopted a new international climate agreement that covers all countries. The agreement is hailed as a historic breakthrough in climate work, but it is also criticized for being too weak and for failing those hardest hit by climate change.
- How well did it come out of the climate summit in Paris?
- Can the Paris Agreement solve the climate problem?
- What were the main points of contention at the climate summit?
- What does the agreement have to say for climate policy internationally – and in Norway?
It is well documented that the temperature of the earth is about to rise , and it is very likely that the warming is mainly due to man-made emissions . If the rise in temperature is to be stopped, carbon emissions in the form of greenhouse gases such as CO 2 and methane must be sharply cut. In the long run, we will probably have to stop using fossil energy completely – oil, coal and gas – so that carbon emissions into the atmosphere will be almost zero.
Since the end of the 1980s, the member states of the UN have been negotiating on how to carry out this enormous task, and how to share the responsibility and costs between them. In 1992, they adopted the UN Climate Convention , an overarching agreement that states that countries should cooperate to avoid “dangerous human impacts on the climate system”. Almost all countries have acceded to the UN Climate Convention, and they meet for a quarterly summit (see drawing) to negotiate how they will achieve the overall goal of the convention. The Paris Summit in 2015 was the 21st in a row of such summits.
2: Who is responsible for the climate problem?
Ever since the UN Climate Convention was adopted, the negotiations have been marked by a conflict between the rich, industrialized countries in the North and the poorer developing countries in the South over how responsibility for the climate problem should be distributed. Developing countries have pointed out that most of the carbon that has been dragged into the atmosphere so far has come from the rich countries, where only a small minority of the world’s population lives (less than 20 percent). Therefore, developing countries believe that rich countries must also take most of the responsibility for reducing emissions. On the other hand, the rich countries have pointed out that emissions are now growing rapidly in many developing countries, especially in large middle-income countries such as China and Brazil. Therefore, the rich countries demand that even large developing countries must promise to reduce their emissions.
At the climate summit in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997, the countries in the UN Climate Convention adopted the so-called Kyoto agreement . There, all rich countries were required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the period from 2008 to 2012. But these emission reductions were far from sufficient, and the Kyoto agreement was further weakened by the US later withdrawing from it (the president had signed, but Congress would not ratify (approve) the agreement). For the past ten years, the countries in the UN Climate Convention have therefore negotiated further on an agreement that can provide greater emission reductions and cover more countries than the Kyoto agreement did.
It was intended that the Copenhagen summit in 2009 should adopt a new agreement, but it did not happen – much due to strong disagreement between the rich and the poor part of the world about how the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be distributed. The failure in Copenhagen made many people doubt whether it would be possible to agree on a climate agreement between all UN countries.
3: Expectations for the Paris Summit
At the climate summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, according to LOCALBUSINESSEXPLORER.COM, the countries decided to start a new round of negotiations, with the aim of reaching an agreement that will cover all countries, and which will apply from 2020 onwards. After the failure in Copenhagen, there was a lot of pressure for the Paris summit to deliver. Ahead of the summit in 2015, hard work was therefore done to lower expectations of what kind of agreement one could hope to achieve.
Instead of negotiating whether a quarter of a country should cut its emissions, it was decided that all countries should set their own climate goals and send them in ahead of the meeting. In this way, the agreement could be based on goals that the countries themselves had set themselves , rather than trying to negotiate a distribution of the emission cuts that everyone could agree on, as was tried in Copenhagen.
This meant that there was far greater hope of reaching an agreement in Paris in 2015 than there was in Copenhagen in 2009. At the same time, expectations were very low when it came to how strong and concrete the agreement would be. The tension was linked, among other things, to the clear rules the agreement came to contain for reporting and checking whether countries actually meet their climate goals. In addition, it was uncertain how concrete a promise the rich countries would give poorer countries to help them with money and technology to implement climate measures.