4: A powerful signal
When the Paris Agreement was adopted, it was called by many a historic moment in climate work. The low expectations of what kind of agreement the countries would be able to agree on, meant that many were positively surprised that the agreement was, after all, relatively detailed in several areas:
- First, the Paris Agreement reiterated the goal of preventing temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees , which was first approved in 2010. But the agreement goes a step further. It says that one should do the best one can to avoid the temperature rising more than 1.5 degrees . Although it is not formulated as an equally clear goal as the goal of 2 degrees , the reference to 1.5 degrees is calculated as one says for the smallest and poorest developing countries. They have always believed that a temperature rise of 2 degrees will cause more serious climate change than they can handle.
The agreement also specifies what it takes to reach a maximum temperature of 2 or 1.5 degrees. The text of the agreement states that in the second half of the century one will achieve a “balance between man-made emissions and the emission of greenhouse gases”. This means that greenhouse gas emissions in the long run must be reduced to almost zero . In addition, the emissions that are att can not be greater than what one manages to remove carbon from the atmosphere through measures such as afforestation.
- Furthermore, the Paris Agreement has more specific rules for how to proceed than many had dared to hope in advance to ensure that the countries implement their climate goals and set themselves more ambitious goals over time. Every quarter of a year, all countries – both industrialized and developing countries – will submit new targets for how much they want to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and the UN will carry out regular assessments of whether the targets as a whole are good enough. More detailed rules will also be drawn up for how the countries will report on the work of achieving the goals, but much of the work of preparing detailed rules in this and other areas was postponed until after the Paris summit.
Overall, the clear overarching goals of the Paris Agreement provide good reason to see the decision as a historic step forward in climate work. In this way, the agreement is a strong signal to politicians, business and most people around the world that climate work is heading in the right direction. The process of cutting greenhouse gas emissions is in full swing, and it is no longer possible to doubt that in the long run we will have to stop using coal, oil and gas to produce energy. This is by far the most positive effect of the Paris Agreement.
5: Weak targets for emission cuts
At the same time, the agreement has also been criticized for being unclear and for not going far enough in many areas. According to LOVERISTS.COM, several leading climate scientists have pointed out that the emission targets that the individual countries have seen are not good enough for us to be able to keep the temperature rise below 2 degrees – and not at all below 1.5 degrees. A group of European researchers has calculated that even if all countries implement all the goals they have seen, the temperature will rise by almost 3 degrees – maybe even more.
There is thus a large gap between the ambitious, overriding goals in the agreement, and the specific measures that the individual countries are willing to commit to. Nor is there anything in the Paris Agreement that ensures that countries implement the goals they have set, or that punishes countries that do not reach their goals.
The Paris Agreement is also unclear when it comes to financing climate measures in poorer countries. The agreement states that the rich countries should lead the way in climate work, and reiterates an earlier promise that rich countries together will try to raise at least 100 billion dollars a year for climate measures in developing countries. But since the agreement does not say something about who is responsible for raising all these billions, or how they will be channeled to the poorer countries, it is very uncertain what this goal will have to say in practice. Thus, it is also uncertain whether the agreement will contribute to a fairer distribution of climate efforts. Will poor countries get the help they need from the rich countries that have dragged out most of the man-made greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere today, and which therefore hold the historical responsibility for the climate problem?