The Paris Agreement
Dr.Francesco La Camera, Direttore Generale Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare
“A differentiated, fair, durable, dynamic, and legally binding agreement”.
These are the words by which the President of Cop21, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius, welcomed the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
But let’s enter into the merits of such various characteristics.
Differentiated. The differentiation between developed Countries and developing Countries was a central issue during the negotiation and represented one of the distinguishing and newest elements of the agreement. The rigid division of countries into two distinct annexes, as in the case of Kyoto Protocol, was actually overcome in order to define tasks and liabilities of Developed countries (annex I) and of Developing countries (annex II). Indeed, earlier all the obligations to reduce emissions and of financial support were incumbent on the former. Such approach implied that despite the fact that rich countries, which executed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol, had substantially fulfilled their commitments to reduce emissions, these continued to increase at global level.
In brief, the economic dynamics of some Countries, emblematically China and India, had more than counterbalanced the efforts of the Countries in annex I; while some of them, first of all the United States, had not ratified the agreement.
The differentiation in the new agreement has abandoned the rigid logic of the annexes in favour of a structure of voluntary commitments, which are the basis of the universal nature of the agreement and bind in a different way the various Countries on all the topics of such agreement: mitigation, or reduction, of emissions, adaptation, means of implementation, exchange of technologies.
Fair. The agreement is fair since the new differentiation structure does not affect the need to ensure everyone has an adequate quality of life. Developed countries maintain a leading role in assuring their commitment to reduce emissions and above all to guarantee an adequate financial support to Countries that need it, in particular late-developing countries and island countries, which are mostly affected by the ongoing climate change. The $100 billion goal to be achieved in 2020 becomes the minimum reference threshold for years following 2020.
Durable. The agreement is durable since it is has no close time limits. It has a long-term goal: committing to a maximum temperature rise of 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and considering lowering that maximum temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in the near future.
Dynamic. The agreement is dynamic since it provides for a review process on a five-year basis to measure and evaluate the consistency of the results achieved both with respect to the commitments undertaken, including financial ones, and with respect to the progressive reduction of emissions consistently with the goal of the Paris Agreement.
The first stocktake has been fixed in 2018 when the efforts of the various Countries with respect to the goal of limiting emissions will be collectively examined for the first time to provide a useful information basis for the revision of one’s pledges and for their fine-tuning with the goal by 2020. A further stocktake is scheduled in 2023 with the consequent review of commitments within the two subsequent years, hence by 2025, and so on respectively every 5 years.
Balanced. In the absence of the balance achieved it would have been impossible to obtain the desired result. But what is important is that the Presidency, taking into account the different positions, contrary to what often happens during negotiations, proposed a text keeping high the level of ambition. In other words: the balance was achieved balancing the most ambitious positions of the various groups of countries, one with the other, and abandoning minor issues when disputed. So the goal of limiting temperature rise includes the reference to 1.5°C, as requested by island countries more affected by the impact of climate changes. The need was emphasised to assure support to this countries along to late-developing countries as requested by the poorest Countries. The commitment of developed countries remained to lead the effort of providing at least 100 billion dollars a year for developing countries, as requested by the G77 group. On the other hand the European Union obtained a strong governance mechanism that includes transparency, reporting, the obligation for all countries to update their commitments every five years to the emissions limitation targets. The initiative of the European Union on Capacity Building – aimed at strengthening the structures and the institutional capacity of the developing countries to implement the provisions and guidelines contained in the Agreement – has certainly contributed to facilitate the final compromise.
Binding. The agreement is legally binding. Again a virtuous balance was reached between the need to observe the Durban Mandate, and hence to grant a binding nature to the agreement, and that to observe the necessity of those countries (mainly the United States) for which the ratification of a new agreement, such as a new protocol, would have been difficult. The solution was a legally binding agreement to become the instrument to implement the framework Convention approved in 1992 on the occasion of the Rio Summit and ratified by the United States too. This will allow, by involving the various countries, to assure a greater possibility to operate in markets having similar characteristics as regards the commitment connected to the Agreement on climate.
If I may add a character to the Paris results, in particular to the process that led to the adoption of the deed, I would say exciting.
The objections to the adoption of the final text by Nicaragua, for political reasons, Turkey and some African Countries, which wanted to benefit too of the priority expressed in favour of small island countries and late-developing countries (already including many other African countries) saw the engagement of the major powers (USA, China, Europe, India – also the representative of the Holy See played a decisive role -) in the attempt to assure the final approval with an extraordinary cooperation effort for unity of intent. Maybe an illusion, the talent of governments in finding shared solutions when facing a global menace, the climate change.
It is of little importance that President Fabius shaking the little wooden hammer to announce the final approval, immediately after reading a short standard phrase, looked at the Meeting for possible dissenters a bit like Nelson putting a telescope to his blind eye.
The satisfaction for the outcome of the negotiation rewards the work of the Italian Government for many aspects. To begin with, for the achievement during the period of the Italian Presidency of an agreement on the energy climate package, which allowed the European Union to establish itself as a prominent actor both on the occasion of COP 20 in Lima and in Paris. Then, for having long since realised and worked at European level to guarantee the highest priority at the Governance issue, the most significant result achieved in Paris. For having assured, with the back-up offered to Pacific island countries, already on the occasion of the UN Summit on climate in New York in 2014, the process that later led to the limitation of temperature rise below 1.5°C. Last but not least, the proposal on Capacity Building, which along with the environmental agreements reached with numerous developing countries has increased their confidence in the outcome of the negotiation, also creating the premises for significant opportunities for frontline Italian enterprises in the field of clean coal technologies.
This is only the beginning, but the path is set. It will be necessary to take it quickly.