This article is a continuation of “Reflection on Paris Agreement: Part 1”. (http://powershiftmalaysia.org.my/reflection-on-paris-agreement/)
My previous article focuses on the bright side of Paris Agreement. I would like to reiterate that all points mentioned in both articles, are based on my personal reflection and thoughts. You may find that this read-through takes more time than you expect, especially if the information is dense or complex.
Technical corrections of Shall and Should
During the Paris Committee meeting on 12 December (the last day), the Secretariat announced that there are some technical corrections to the final draft text. Immediately after the announcement, the agreement was gavelled by Sir Laurent Fabius, President of COP21.
One of the technical corrections which I am most concern, is the replacement of the word ‘shall’ to ‘should’ in Article 4.4 (page 22).
“Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets…” (Article 4.4, Paris Agreement)
Replacement of one word may change the content of the whole text. Albeit Paris Agreement is an agreement with legally binding force, the word ‘should’ is just a “selective” principle while the word ‘shall’ is an obligation. In other words, developed country Parties have the right to choose to continue taking the lead, or not. The word ‘shall’ is to differentiate the responsibility of developed and developing countries based on Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR) principle. Since the word ‘should’ is in use now, the responsibility for both developed and developing countries is at the same level.
Loss and Damage
Paragraph 52 in the decision part stated that “Agrees that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”. (Article 8, is the agreement for Loss and Damage). This means developed countries will not hold liability for the damage they had caused, by centuries due to historic emission. Frankly speaking, the situation would be like: “Oops, we acknowledge your loss and we do feel sorry about it, unfortunately we are unable to compensate your loss.” Besides, the language in Article 8 is also weak due to the use of the word ‘should’ and ‘may’ in 8.3 and 8.4 respectively (page 26).
There are uncertainties in the agreement. The agreement is perceived to be an achievement for Obama’s administration, or to the world. But, the presidential term for the United States President Barack Obama will end in Jan 2017, which also means his term will end in almost a year’s time. He will not be able to oversee the implementation of the agreement. Besides, United States may disagree with the agreement, if the President for the next term does not have the same interest as President Obama did. This “what if scenario” also applies to countries from all around the world. In a plain text, the success of the agreement depends on political stability as well.
As for the finance, the issues on developed countries fulfilling their pledges of $100 billion annually, starting in 2020 are still unclear. What is missed in the agreement – there are no explicit targets in the text.
“The agreement is not perfect, but what is in life?” said by Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC during her interview with CNN after the agreement is adopted.
Some people said the Paris Agreement is a flaw. Well, nothing is perfect in this world but nothing will happen if nothing is being done. As for me, Paris Agreement will be a turning point. We will see a shift from fossil fuel era to a more sustainable and renewable energy era in the near future.
Last but not least, the Paris Agreement is just a stack of paperwork full of unsound obligations, sound actions are required in order to achieve the objectives of the agreement. Domestic actions such as mitigation and adaptation need to be done to achieve the contribution listed in the INDC, without compromising the needs of the people and ecosystem and, inline with the objective of Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)(page 4)
Written by: Thomas Lai
Edited by : Merryn Choong