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AS I SEE THINGS: Agreement on climate issues


AS I SEE THINGS: Agreement on climate issues

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Having expressed a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction with the Kyoto Protocol, it was not surprising that many countries were determined to create a new agreement that would hopefully address in a meaningful way some of the more demanding aspects of climate change and the consequences for countries, large and small. Alas, a deal has been reached.

The New York Times sums up the recent climate change agreement gratifyingly: “With the sudden bang of a gavel on Saturday night, representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

The deal, which was met with an eruption of cheers and ovations from thousands of delegates gathered from around the world, represents a historic breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to adddress climate change. Traditionally, such pacts have required developed economies like the United States to take action to lower greenhouse gas emissions, but they have exempted developing countries like China and India from such obligations.”

The Times continues: “The new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming. At best, scientists who have analysed it say it will cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about half enough as is necessary to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of two degrees Celcius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the point at which, scientific studies have concluded, the world will be locked into a future of devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages and more destructive storms.”

Clearly, the picture being painted is one of major catastrophy if countries fail to take immediate and concrete measures to counter the effects of climate change – a phenomenon that is now becoming the topic of intense scrutiny in the developed as well as developing world. What this agreement means in essence is that for the very first time we have countries giving consent to once and for all tackle climate change in an aggressive manner.

Hence, they have come up with an arrangement that would see action intended to deal effectively with climate change and its consequences not only on a global scale but also within their own domestic space.

It seems clear to me that in order to give serious meaning to this climate change agreement, every country that is so committed to addressing the problem must institute specific climate plans and programmes that would need a tremendous amount of financial resources to be effective.

Fortunately, the advanced countries do recognise this fundamental fact and have, therefore, pledged to transfer $100 billion a year to developing countries starting in 2020 for the purpose of dealing with climate change issues with seriousness and dedication.

As customary, countries do sign agreements on all sorts of issues only to later abandon their commitments. Since this present agreement is not legally binding, there is no mechanism for forced implementation or for sanctioning countries that default. How this inadequacy will affect the achievement of the desired outcomes of our latest climate change agreement is anyone’s guess.

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