After the initial excitement and euphoria over the draft agreement on climate issues arrived at the Paris climate conference, careful study of the proceedings, deliberations and agreements arrived at the conference, cannot but make one suspect that the conference has ended as a talk show,with several uncertainties and conflicts of interests remaining unsolved.
The Paris climate summit acknowledges the need to aggressively address climate change, but it fails to detail with clarity as to how that will be done.
Aggregate pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions made by the nation-states of the world fail far short of what is needed to begin to address the looming catastrophic climate change.
The agreement fails to acknowledge the need to decarbonize the world economy, by not mentioning fossil fuels such as crude oil, coal in the agreement.
The agreement sets a floor on conduct of countries but not the ceiling on what people in the world have a right to demand from the governments of the world.
Targets fixed during the conference remain voluntary and the required actions are unspecified and appear daunting.
The decision to conduct review of a 1.5 deg C warming limit by 2018 may come too late, as the world is well on the way to 1.5 deg C with present greenhouse gas levels. It now appears that staying below 2 deg C warming is in itself a formidable task.
Interest and responsibilities of the participating countries diverge widely, ranging from the post industrial economies of the global north to industrializing nations such as China and India to the most vulnerable nations already facing climate change disruptions, such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Paris deal may be the best deal that could have been struck given the limits of the political economic environment, but that does not mean that it has done what is necessary to protect the life support systems of the actual environment.
Economic impact of large scale reduction of reliance on fossil fuels is untested and not clear and have been conspicuous by lack of detailed discussions during the conference.
Political direction of USA?
Currently, in USA all the leading Republican candidates for 2016 Presidential election oppose significant policy measures to mitigate climate change, and most have distanced themselves from mainstream scientific views.
A new skeptical Republican President may abandon Obama Administration’s current climate change commitments, including its emissions-reductions target for 2025 and, in effect, withdraw support for the Paris Agreement. He may undermine Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts via the Clean Air Act to curb emissions from power stations. If Republicans retain clear majorities in the House and Senate after 2016, additional legislative and fiscal initiatives to thwart mitigation efforts are highly probable.
Political direction of China?
Will China stick true to its commitment if it faces a large economic downturn as is forecast by leading economists, as its shifting from a manufacturing/investment led to consumption led economy ?
Will the talk lead to results ?
Real work on decisions made during COP21, has to begin now and in earnest globally by all major countries. Agreements-in-principle needs to be translated into action by individual member countries. Developed nations need to determine their projected peak emissions level plan with urgency.
This requires more specific and aggressive policies in a massive expansion of clean-energy investment, and industry needs to plan to shift away from fossil fuels.
While developing nations are allowed more flexibility, due to rising populations and pollution levels due to economic growth, they need to make a careful assessment of total cost of polluting with fossil fuels and the cleanup thereafter, and hence decide their fossil fuel based energy profile carefully.
The first revisiting of 2025 and 2030 goals will come in 2018, with another stock-taking review in 2023.
Going by current trends in global warming, the earth would have become warmer in 2018 by 0.1C compared to 2015 levels, moving closer to the target of 1.5 deg C warming levels. There is little time to act.