Nepal | January 16, 2021

Paris Accord: Make earth a livable place

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Man has made much progress on various fronts but this has also resulted in ecocide. For a safer future, there should be a carbon-free future. It should be the concern of all nations to make earth a livable and viable planet. For this, all the nations should implement their NDC commitments

The Paris Climate Agreement (PCA) has come into force since 2020, four years after it was signed in Paris in November 2016 by 197 UN member countries.

The Agreement aims at limiting the global temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial levels. Many countries, especially island states, which have been threatened by rising sea level, want to restrict the global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

All parties to the PCA are required to draw up nationally determined contribution (NDC) commitments and make strenuous efforts to fulfil the objectives in the years to come.

Developed countries are required to set economy-wide targets, while developing countries are required to adopt mitigation measures and march towards economy-wide targets.

All parties are required to report regularly on emissions and their implementation status. Every five years, stock is to be taken of the situation and collective progress assessed. And the parties will take further action, as per the needs, to improve the situation.

The PCA brings all nations together in the fight against climate change.

There is a provision that developed countries should help developing and least developed countries in their efforts in fighting climate change, including mitigating the impacts thereof. As per the provision, developed countries are required to give US$100 billion to developing and the least developed countries in assistance. The agreement aims at building the capacity of nations to cope with climate change so that greenhouse gas emissions can be curbed and climate-resilient arrangements can be made to deal with rising problems associated with climate change.

To make the PCA viable, assistance by developed countries is a prerequisite.

The USA used to give economic and technical assistance to the Agreement.

However, the country, which is responsible for 28 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions, has withdrawn from the Agreement.

As soon as Donald Trump became the US President, he withdrew from the agreement. He started the process of withdrawal from June 2017. He wanted to be disassociated with the agreement as soon as possible. However, due to complicated procedures for the withdrawal like not allowing withdrawal for three years since signing the agreement, the USA formally withdrew from the agreement on November 4, 2020.

The US withdrawal is a great blow to the PCA. If the USA were in the Agreement, China, India and other heavy carbon dioxide-emitting countries would be under pressure to make concerted efforts at coping with climate change. It would be pertinent to note that when the USA was not in the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement made in 1997 to curb greenhouse gas emissions, powerful nations like Japan, Canada and Australia backed down from the Protocol, making it toothless.

However, with the election of Joe Biden as the US President, a new ray of hope has emerged in the horizon. Biden is opposed to Trump’s negative attitude towards the PCA. The USA signed the agreement in 2016 when Barack Obama was the President, and Biden the Vice-President.

On the day when the USA formally withdrew from the agreement, Biden said the USA would rejoin it 77 days from then.

Biden’s election commitments were climate-friendly.

He pledged himself to attain zero carbon emissions by 2050, spend two trillion US dollars in four years in physical infrastructure, transport, auto industry, energy-efficient housing and construction, nature conservation and environmental justice. He further committed himself to create an additional one million jobs in the auto industry and promote electric vehicles.

In fact, one of the major reasons for Trump’s defeat in the presidential race was his eccentric decisions such as withdrawing from international agreements like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (commonly called the Iran Nuclear Deal) and the PCA, and his unwillingness to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Due to his uncooperative attitude towards controlling the virus, the USA has topped both the infection tally and the death toll in the world.

The PCA is closely associated with poverty alleviation, food security, utilisation of natural resources, environmental conservation, control of natural calamities, sustainable development and so on. Viewed thus, the agreement, if fully implemented, could uplift the standard of living of people living in vulnerable communities.

For poor counties like Nepal, the agreement is a boon. Projects relating to Chure and Gandaki watershed area conservation, climate adaptation and climate change preparedness in the country are funded by the Green Climate Fund under the agreement. And other projects have also been proposed.

Anthropogenic activities are largely to blame for the degrading environment.

Big projects like the construction of airports require felling of trees.

The construction of the proposed Nijgadh International Airport, for example, entails felling of hundreds of thousands of trees.

But it would be prudent to recoup such a loss of forest cover through afforestation.

Man has made much progress on various fronts but this has also resulted in ecocide. For a safer future, there should be a carbon-free future. It should be the concern of all nations to make earth a livable and viable planet. For this, all the nations should implement their NDC commitments. In our context, the progress made so far as per the NDC commitments is not satisfactory although there is some headway in forest cover, solar power installation in homes and implementation of local adaptation plans at the local level. In the context of having submitted the NDC-2020 to the UN, Nepal should pull out all the stops to meet the targets as set forth in the document as part of contributing to the implementation of the PCA from its side.

A version of this article appears in print on December 15, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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