The Paris Fiasco: How The West Failed Yet Again

  • Date: 17/08/16
  • Robin Guenier, Climate Etc.

The Paris agreement’s failure to achieve the West’s most basic aim: that powerful emerging economies should be obliged to share in emission reduction.

For anyone convinced that humans must urgently and substantially reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions if they are to avoid potential catastrophe, the failure of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009 was a serious setback. However the UN summit in Paris last year was a disaster.

Copenhagen was only a setback because, although it failed to produce the universal agreement to reduce GHGs that many had expected, it left the door open to further negotiation. That was confirmed at the UN climate summit in Durban in 2011 (COP-17) where it was agreed to work towards a new legally-binding agreement in Paris in 2015 (COP-21) – an agreement the West intended should include GHG reduction commitments from all countries.

But that didn’t happen: the terms agreed in Paris exempted socalled “developing” countries from any obligation, moral or legal, to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – terms exceptionally unlikely to be renegotiated. Yet developing countries are responsible for over 65% of global emissions [ref] and the quantity of GHGs they emit is most likely to increase as, for example, they continue to build coal-fired power plants. [ref] That’s why Paris was a disaster. Moreover it’s a disaster exacerbated by the probability that two major “developed” countries – Russia and Japan, responsible for about 9% of global GHG emissions – will continue to burn (even increase) their current levels of fossil fuels.[ref]

The USA and Europe are responsible for most remaining emissions. But, as that’s less than 25% of the global total, there’s little they can do, short of closing down their economies altogether, that could make a significant contribution to an overall reduction.

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