Rocky Mountain Institute, 4 October, 2016
This week, a number of European countries will submit paperwork to the United Nations formally binding them to the Paris Agreement, raising the tally of committed countries above 55 percent of global emissions and triggering the agreement’s entry into force 30 days later. For those who thought the champagne corks popped last December in Paris, here’s a brief guide about why this week’s events constitute a historic milestone and what comes next.
Wait, isn’t Paris already done? What’s the big deal?
The Paris Agreement is indeed a big deal, for the reasons outlined below. But the negotiation last December wasn’t the end of the story. When thousands of negotiators leapt to their feet and adopted the agreement by acclamation, they locked down the text that would go back to national capitals to get approved….
Remind me again why Paris is important?
Paris is the first universal, long-term operational agreement for tackling climate change that includes a specific, clear global goal—achieving a climate-neutral global economy by the second half of the century—and the machinery countries will use to get there in five-year increments of commitments….
OK great. What’s next—or is this the end of history for global climate policy?
Er… I’m afraid not. With the Paris Agreement locked in, climate policy will be focused on three kinds of work.
First, at a domestic level, there will be intense focus on the implementation of national commitments—or nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in UN-speak…
Second, countries will begin planning for their next set of targets as part of the five-year ratchet built into the Paris Agreement…
Third, the international climate regime itself must continue to evolve into “a more perfect union.” What’s the next stage? Under Paris, the targets themselves are not legally binding, which caused consternation in many quarters. Yet legal force does not necessarily translate into compliance under international law because of a lack of enforcement mechanisms with teeth. Canada withdrew without consequence from Kyoto, which had legally binding targets. The premise of Paris is that countries want to make the transition to a low-carbon economy because of its myriad benefits, but are concerned about competition along the way from free riders…
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