Read our very useful summary of the key points agreed upon at the recent Paris Summit including the main positive and negative outcomes.

Overview

1. Article 2 -1.5C Limit: Governments have agreed to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This will be done in a context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

a. Issue: this is very positive as it is a significant drop in the 2C agreed at Copenhagen. However, there are no measures in place to achieve the 1.5C aspiration.

2. Throughout the Paris Text – Mitigation: Parties are bound to prepare and regularly update pledges to curb emissions.

a. Issue: 180 countries had submitted INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions). INDCS are recognised under the agreement, but are not legally binding. The pledges submitted are not sufficient to curb 2C rise. Currently the INDCs will lead to a 2.7C rise or higher.

b.These emissions are expected to be reduced over time. The decision text “invites” countries to write long-term low-emissions strategies by 2020, while the legal agreement says they should “strive” to do this.

c.Issue also with transparency (see below) on national implementation which aims to be “facilitative, non-intransitive and non-punitive” and respectful of national sovereignty.

3. Article 4 – Global Goal: Aim to peak in emissions as soon as possible and a long term global goal for net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

  1. Countries can use ‘sinks’ such as forests to do this.
  2. Developed countries will take the lead but developing are also required to eventually move to emissions peaking and reduction.
  3. The global goal will be reached on the basis of equity and in a context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.
  4. Issue: UN IPCC say net zero emissions must be achieved by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.

4. Article 14 – Stocktake clause: Introduction of a review mechanism to take stock of country efforts every five years. This will   inform the efforts of future commitments and aims to increase pledges. Each pledge must be ‘a progression’ and ‘as ambitious as possible’

a.Facilitative dialogue to develop these pledges will begin in 2018. These will inform efforts of future commitments.

b.Countries which have submitted targets for 2025 are urged to come back in 2020 with new targets, while those with 2030 targets are encourages to ‘communicate or update’ them. This process will be repeated every five years, with the first global stocktake under the new Paris deal occurring in 2023.

c.Issue: There is no penalty for countries that miss their emissions targets, but the aim is for transparency rules to encourage countries to do what they say they will do.

5. Article 8 – Loss and Damage Mechanism: Introduction of a mechanism to recognise and address the financial losses vulnerable countries face from climate change. This article is now on par with political statements of mitigation and adaptation.

a. Issue: The US long opposed this as they feared it would lead to compensation claims. To stop this a footnote clause was introduced to state that loss and damage “does not involve or provide basis for any liability or compensation”

6. Article 9 – Finance: Legal obligation on developed countries to continue to provide climate finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy. Other countries can provide support voluntarily.

a. More flexible decision texts (outside the legally binding agreement) state that the current flow of $100bn a year is ‘intend[ed] to continue’ beyond 2020. By 2025 there are aims to increase this beyond ‘a floor’ of €100billion a year through a collective agreement.

b.The nature and purpose of this finance isn’t clear, this leaves space for it to be fulfilled by private finance. There are worries that finance will be redirected from existing aid budgets.

7. Article 13 – Transparency: A “facilitative, non-intransitive and non-punitive” system of review will track countries progress. a.Issue: The rules on reporting are flexible, there is recognition of the difficulties developing countries face in gathering this information, however, all countries must report regularly. This is especially important for the US and EU who want to keep an eye on China and avoid ‘carbon leakage’.

8. Article 7 – Adaptation: The deal establishes a “global goal” on adaptation of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change”. Countries are bound to engage in adaptation planning that must be submitted and updated periodically.

9. Article 22 – Entry into Force: The deal will enter into force once 55 parties, covering 55% of global emissions have signed up.

Negotiations for the Paris agreement were particularly tense as it had to be carefully crafted to avoid specification as a treaty which would require approval from two-thirds of the US Senate. The Senate is currently dominated by Republicans hostile to action on climate.

The former Kyoto Protocol focused on ensuring legally binding emissions reductions from developed countries alone. This led to the US refusal to take part, a significant loss for the Protocol. For the Paris agreement, the US was adamant that the climate agreement be universal in securing voluntary commitments from every country.

Positives:

  • Universal adoption. UN has 193 members, 195 countries accepted the agreement.
  • Unmistakeable intention of the international community to end reliance on fossil-fuels shown by a long-term emissions reduction goal of zero emissions by the second half of this century. This will affect global investment patterns and shift funding from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
  • Five year review cycle of all INDCS – it’s been 20 years since the last targets were set in Kyoto.
  • Measures to ensure transparency – these ensure it’s tougher to manipulate data and will ensure all players feel they have to look over their shoulder – there are no outliers.
  • Creates a vision statement for the globe. Creates a new, universal vocabulary with bold objectives that will influence international relations and, therefore, domestic actions.

Negatives

  • Current INDCs mean a 2.7C rise in global temperatures.
  • “Strategic ambiguity” of the text means it’s largely not legally binding. The text walks a fine line, binding in some elements like reporting requirement but setting emissions targets for individual country is non-binding
  • Little enforcement – e.g. the “mechanism to facilitate implementation and compliance” (Article 15) specifically says that it will be “non-adversarial and non-punitive”.
  • Very vague – We need plans as to HOW we will move to zero emissions and an enforceable roadmap to get there. There is no set date for a peak in emissions, or for the achievement of carbon neutrality. These targets are binding at global level but there is nothing binding for countries involved.
  • Although there is an important “no-backsliding clause” that obliges all countries to do progressively better, ensuring that planned stocktake and reviews are implemented will be key to securing the needed ambition and commitments.

Credibility of the INDCs – Particular focus on the G20

In terms of the INDCs, it is now well known that they will exceed the required 1.5C rise in temperatures. What is little discussed is whether the named INDCs will be implemented or not to begin with. A recent Grantham Institute Policy Paper ‘Beyond the Targets’ has assessed the credibility of the signatories in terms of their ability to implement their given INDCs. The key determinants of national policy credibility used in the study are:

  • coherent and comprehensive legislative and policy basis
  • a transparent, inclusive and effective decision-making process with sufficient political constraints to limit policy reversal
  • dedicated public bodies supported by a consultative mechanisms
  • supportive private bodies
  • a history of active international engagement on environmental issues
  • climate-aware public opinion
  • a track record of delivering on past climate change commitments and no history of policy abolition.

In terms of having credible climate policy sufficiently strong to implement INDCs the analysis identifies three groups of countries among the G20:

  1. For a number of countries most determinants score as ‘largely supportive’ to the credibility of their INDC. These countries include the EU and its individual G20 members (France, Germany, Italy and the UK), as well as South Korea.
  2. Several countries have several determinants which are at least ‘moderately supportive’ to the credibility of their INDC, but display a significant weakness in one determinant. This group includes Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, South Africa and the USA.
  3. A number of countries have scope for significantly increasing credibility across most determinants. These are Argentina, Canada, China, India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. The analysis presented in this paper provides insights on where the G20 countries could focus action to boost the credibility of their INDCs. It will also be useful for other developed and developing countries, most of which, while having unique national circumstances, will need to strengthen the credibility of their INDCs to a greater or lesser extent along the main determinants identified in this paper.