Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Urbanos y Ambientales

Dr. José Luis Lezama
Profesor-Investigador / Professor -Researcher
Director del Seminario Interdisciplinario sobre Estudios Ambientales y del Desarrollo Sustentable / Director of the Interdisciplinary Seminar on Environmental and Sustainable Development


viernes, 18 de diciembre de 2015

Paris Agreement. COP 21. Paris Today is a Party. J.L. Lezama

José Luis Lezama*

I. 'Historic' Agreement

Finally, shortly after 7:00 p.m. Paris time, Laurent Fabius, French Foreign Minister, banged the gavel down on the table thus indicating that the Paris Agreement for the Climate had been adopted by the international community represented in the organization of the United Nations. The last differences had been resolved minutes earlier. French President Hollande:

"We are at a decisive point in time."
Emotionally, Minister Fabius said:
"Today is a moment of truth."
European Union representative:
"The treaty is ambitious, balanced and robust."
President Obama:
"It's the best chance for saving the only planet we have."
Ban Ki-Moon considered this agreement to be the highlight of his tenure as UN Secretary General. A little melodramatically, Al Gore, congratulated his grandchildren and his grandchildren's grandchildren, who will receive a better Planet.

Outside the room arrangements The Mexican Wave could be seen with a certain splendor, and The Eiffel Tower announced 1.5C. In Paris it was a party.

II. Commitments

All countries have pledged to reduce their emissions. The rich countries offered to raise up to 100 billion dollars by 2020 to help poor countries deal with the effects of Climate Change. In the language of the United Nations the agreement is considered binding ; i.e., it is about the obligatory nature unaccompanied by audit institutions, sanctions or verification systems for verifying if national governments have the will, capacity and authority to fulfill their pledges [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, INDC].

Every five years, countries agree to review their goals and achievements and establish new objectives in order to approach and achieve the aspirational target of [holding the rise in global temperature to] 1.5C [2.7F] 'ASAP'. An aspirational goal means an objective sought, or striven for, it does not mean that it will be achieved as a result of the agreement.

III. How Agreement Was Reached

French diplomacy resorted to various kinds of negotiating strategies—speaking with delegates, together and separately, with groups, coalitions, mobilizing the 'big players'; for example, President Obama calling Xi Jinping, and the presidents of Brazil and India, etc., at the last minute to pave the way for securing consensus. And, particularly, turning to a type of informal meeting involving small numbers of countries. In UN jargon these informal meetings are called Indabas—a term originating in the Zulu language and aluding to certain tribal or community meetings convened to resolve common problems. No diplomatic stone was left unturned by Minister Fabius and UN negotiators in order to achieve their ultimate goal: reaching an agreement.

IV. Today Everyone Is Happy, Tomorrow Morning Reality Sets In

Nobody wants to know about critics, pessimists, doubters, or rain falling on the parade. Today is for celebration and joy. Tomorrow, when the party ends, the devil will appear in the details. Then it will be time to confirm the will and capacity of countries and international organizations to make real what today is a promise.

All the models and projections prepared starting from the emission reduction pledges [INDCs] brought by representatives of the countries who came to Paris show that the Planet's atmospheric temperature will rise at least 2.7C [4.86F]. To date, climate science says that the Planet has warmed by about 1C [1.8F] since the beginning of the Industrial Era. In this context:
How will the signatories of the Agreement, and how will the United Nations, reach the 2C [3.6F] goal, let alone the aspirational target of 1.5C [2.7F]?
But at COP21 it was about being optimistic and showing determination to deliver for Paris and the Planet.

The one hundred countries comprising the Coalition of High Ambition took up the strictest demand of 1.5C, proposed some time ago by a large number of undeveloped countries worldwide. Curiously, the United States became the demand's chief promoter. Of course, it was in the minds of many that the agreements were not going to be mandatory, so the impossible could be requested and offered.

V. The Protagonists: Theatrics?

In addition to French diplomacy, a great protagonist seems to have been the aforementioned 'Coalition of High Ambition', formed in recent months with some secrecy and that, in Paris, turned out to be supported by many of the 'big players': United States, European Union, Brazil, by a majority of undeveloped countries and, particularly, by the Republic of the Marshall Islands and its media-savvy Foreign Minister Tony deBrum, who dramatically presented at this summit the catastrophic future that awaits his country.

Still on December 11, Friday night, China referred to this Coalition, and its proposed 1.5C target as a theatrical performance. James Hansen, considered the pioneer in global awareness of climate change, said that the goals in the Paris Talks are a fraud based on promises, without real actions:
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”(James Hansen, The Guardian, 12/12/2015). 
Complete Text of Agreement: UNFCCC: Adoption of Paris Agreement.

*José Luis Lezama (born 1952), Mexican researcher in the fields of Environmental Sciences, Urbanism, and Demography; earned his PhD in Social Sciences with specialization in Environmental Policy at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, University College London in the United Kingdom. Dr. Lezama is currently Director of the Centre for Demographic, Urban and Environmental Studies (CEDUA) of El Colegio de México and Director of the Interdisciplinary Seminar on Environmental Studies at El Colegio de México. He was Visiting Researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Department of Air, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, coordinating the Chapter on Environmental Policy and Institutional Analysis in the Mexico City Air Quality Project under the coordination of Nobel laureate Dr. Mario Molina. Dr. Lezama is a contributor to the Mexican national newspaper Reforma writing on environmental, technological and social issues. Contact: Twitter: @jlezama2 andhttp://joseluislezama.blogspot.mx/ [Blog is in Spanish; articles in English also posted]
MVE Note: Final paragraphs of The Guardian interview with Jim Hansen:
"There is a positive note to end on, however. Global emissions have somewhat stalled and Hansen believes China, the world’s largest emitter, will now step up to provide the leadership lacking from the U.S. A submerged Fifth Avenue and deadly heatwaves aren’t an inevitability. 
"'I think we will get there because China is rational,' Hansen says. 'Their leaders are mostly trained in engineering and such things, they don’t deny climate change and they have a huge incentive, which is air pollution. It’s so bad in their cities they need to move to clean energies. They realise it’s not a hoax. But they will need co-operation.'"

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