Wednesday, July 17, 2019 | ePaper

Climate Diplomacy

Negotiations in a make-believe world

  • Print
Chandra Bhushan :
As I was attending the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change-to create a rulebook to operationalise the Paris Agreement-in Katowice, Poland, it dawned on me, like never before, that the negotiations were taking place in a make-believe world.
There was a stark disconnect between what is required to contain the impacts of climate change and what representatives of 197 parties were trying to achieve.
The world is reeling under the effects of climate disasters. From Kerala to California, extreme weather events are killing people, destroying properties and businesses.
Why is it that three years after the "historic" Paris Agreement was signed, the global collective effort is in tatters? The reason is the architecture of the Paris Agreement itself.
This, when the global temperature has only increased by 1.0°C from preindustrial levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C makes it clear that the impacts are going to be substantially higher at 1.5°C warming and catastrophic at 2.0°C.
The worst part is that most countries, including the US and the European Union, were not even on track to meet their meagre commitments to curb emissions.
So why is it that three years after the "historic" Paris Agreement was signed, the global collective effort is in tatters? The reason is the architecture of the Paris Agreement itself.
The Paris Agreement is a voluntary agreement in which countries are free to choose their own climate targets, called nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Developed countries and rich developing countries were expected to take higher emission reduction targets than poor developing countries.
But if a rich country doesn't commit to a higher emissions cut, no one can demand a revision of targets. Worse, if a country fails to meet its NDCs, there is no penalty. The agreement, therefore, based on the goodwill of countries.
Herein lies the catch.
Since the beginning, climate negotiations have been viewed as an economic negotiation and not as an environmental negotiation. So, instead of cooperation, competition is the foundation of these negotiations. Worst still, the negotiations are viewed as a zero-sum game.
For instance, Donald Trump believes that reducing emissions will hurt the US economy and benefit China, so he has walked out of the Paris Agreement. China too believes in this viewpoint, and despite being the world's largest polluter today, it has not yet committed to any absolute emissions cut.
The fact is every country is looking for its own narrow interest and not the larger interest of the whole world. They are, therefore, committing to as little climate targets as possible.
This is the Achilles heel of the Paris Agreement. This is the reason why the Paris Agreement will not be able meet its own goal of limiting global warming well below 2°C. The negotiations, however, are devoid of this realisation.
We need to understand that the interest of countries and the interest of the world are two sides of the same coin. Climate change demands countries cooperate and work together to reduce emissions.
But this can only happen if the climate change negotiations move from being a zero-sum game to a positive-sum game. Today, it is possible to make this changeover because reducing emissions and increasing economic growth are no more incompatible to each other.
Costs of technologies such as batteries, super-efficient appliances and smart grids are falling so rapidly that they are already competitive with fossil fuel technologies.
So the reason for countries to compete with each other for carbon budget is becoming immaterial. If countries cooperate, the cost of low and no-carbon technologies can be reduced at a much faster pace, which will benefit everyone.
The bottom line is negotiations cannot continue in a business-as-usual fashion. The time has come to devise new mechanisms for a meaningful international collaboration to fight climate change.

(Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General of Centre for Science and Environment).

More News For this Category

Adequate relief materials needed to face the deluge

FLOOD situations in the country's North and Northeastern districts including, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Gaibandha, Bogura, Rangpur, Sirajganj, Tangail, Sylhet and Cox's Bazar, are being deteriorated as floodwaters are submerging new

Ensure hassle-free higher education for them

THE results of this year's Higher Secondary Certificate and equivalent examinations under country's 10 education boards were announced yesterday where the combined pass rate rose by 7. 29 percent

 Today's Journalism

Today's Journalism

Syed M. Fuad  :I am often amazed at the tendency of certain sections of the media to read too much into something when little exists, and often to read

Don't Give Up

Don't Give Up

Arifa Noor :Years ago, I heard Beena Sarwar (journalist and editor) narrate a story involving veteran journalist Aziz Siddiqui, who was part of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Punish the corrupts

TWO government probe committees have found anomalies involving Tk 36.4 crore in purchasing furniture and other household items for officials of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Pabna. The bodies, formed

Accidents at level crossings

A newly-married couple and eight others of the bridal party were killed when a Dhaka-bound train rammed their microbus at an unmanned level crossing in Sirajganj's Ullapara upazila on Monday

Satellite Channels

Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed :Satellite channel, one of the most outstanding inventions of humankind, has become a matter of controversy. Any scientific invention, which has widespread application, gives birth to

Coral Reefs Under Threat

Al Nahian Avro :Coral reefs are the highly diversified symbiotic ecosystem in the marine-realm, covering 1% of the ocean and providing shelter to almost 25% of marine species. Reef-building corals

About ICC probe and punishment of Myanmar Generals

A TEAM of investigators of the International Criminal Court is due in Dhaka today to prepare for the preliminary probe into crimes committed against minority Rohingya community in Rakhine of

Killing inside court: Police role questioned

AN accused of a murder case was killed in front of a judge at a Cumilla court on Monday. The incident took place when an accused youth stabbed another one