The Paris Agreement After 2016

The Paris Agreement After 2016

By Calvin Nguyen, Staff Contributor

The Paris Agreement is now on the road to implementation. The treaty requires ratification by member states representing at least 55% of the world’s carbon emissions.[1] After the Parliament of the European Union voted to ratify, the requisite number of countries needed for the Agreement to enter into force was met, and it will officially enter into force on November 4th, 2016.[2]

It took eight years for the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force.[3] That the Paris Agreement was able to do so in less than a year, having been adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015, stands as a diplomatic accomplishment of the highest order. Anyone concerned at all with the future of the Earth’s climate has reason to celebrate this achievement.

But dark clouds loom over the future of the Agreement. If the stakes of the upcoming presidential election were not already high enough, the implementation of the Agreement depends on the outcome. In fact, the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency was one of the factors driving the speedy ratification process. As Robert Stavins, the director of the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, wrote in an email to The Hill: “His threat stimulated this rapid series of ratifications — China, the USA, Europe, and many others.[4]

The next president will determine the fate of the Clean Power Plan and the future composition of the Supreme Court, which has halted the implementation of the plan. As Devin Henry wrote in The Hill: “If the court struck down the rule, the U.S. might have a hard time meeting its commitments under the Paris deal.[5]

The difference between the two major party candidates could not be greater. One is committed to continuing to cut carbon dioxide emissions, while the other has said that climate change is a hoax concocted by China in order to harm US manufacturing. One supports the Paris Agreement, while the other has said that he would cancel it[6]. For those concerned about manmade climate change, the choice is stark, and easy.

The situation is dire. As reported in The Washington Post, “A group of scientists led by Robert Watson, a former chair of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned last week that the world could cross 1.5 degrees Celsius permanently by 2030 — in less than 15 years — and that the emissions committing us to that outcome could happen considerably sooner than that.” The Paris Agreement set a target of keeping the temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.[7]

It will not be enough to elect the right president. As Secretary Kerry said in an interview with The Washington Post: “What I said in Paris when it passed and we all spoke, is that it’s a signal to the marketplace, it’s not a solution in and of itself.[8]” Climate change is a universal challenge, one that requires action at all levels of government, and not simply in pursuing mitigation, but also adaptation. It requires action not just in government, but also by private actors whose preferences shape the marketplace and who will determine whether a clean energy economy becomes a reality and not simply a policy goal. It will take more than electing the right president.

But that’s a start.

[1] Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis, The Paris climate agreement is entering into force. Now comes the hard part., (October 18, 2016, 4:33 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/10/04/the-paris-climate-agreement-is-entering-into-force-now-comes-the-hard-part/?utm_term=.943209795532.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Devin Henry, UN makes power play against Trump, (October 18, 2016, 4:38 PM), http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/299310-un-makes-power-play-against-donald-trump.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Chris Mooney, Brady Dennis, The Paris climate agreement is entering into force. Now comes the hard part., (October 18, 2016, 4:33 PM), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/10/04/the-paris-climate-agreement-is-entering-into-force-now-comes-the-hard-part/?utm_term=.943209795532

[8] Id.

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