The phrase ‘historical responsibility’ has been erased from the Agreement. This weakens the obligations of developed countries, says Centre for Science and Environment
The much anticipated Paris Agreement on climate change was adopted by all members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at about 7:30 pm local time on Saturday, nearly 24 hours after the official deadline of the Paris climate summit. The Paris agreement will now be open for ratification by each member nation from April 2016 onwards.
The agreement has come after an intense two weeks of negotiations and represents a lot of compromises made, particularly by developing countries. Developing countries have got “words” and promise of money while developed countries have finally got rid of their historical responsibility of causing climate change. They have no legally binding targets on finance or emissions cuts.
“The phrase ‘historical responsibility’ has been erased from the agreement and this weakens the obligations of developed countries to take actions due to there past emissions. Without historical responsibility, equity will now be interpreted only through the words ‘respective capabilities and national circumstances’ further removing differentiation between the climate actions of developed and developing countries,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general at Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
To erase any notion of historical responsibility, the developed countries have gone to the extent of mentioning in the text that the loss and damage due to climate change “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”.
Analysis of the adopted text:
- Differentiation between developed and developing countries is maintained in the text in some parts, particularly on finance, but it must be noted that this is weak differentiation based on capabilities and not on historic responsibilities. Also, no financial target has been mentioned in the agreement
- The words “Equity” and “Common But Differentiated Responsibilities” has come in many places, but gets negated by the fact that the Nationally Determined Contributions of countries are not legally binding and everyone has to take on mitigation commitments
- The text does talk about support for loss and damage, but clearly specifies that this will not be considered as liability or compensation. This further weakens the obligations of developed countries and erases responsibilities of dealing with the consequences of their past emissions
- References to carbon budgets is gone and so developed countries can continue to disproportionally appropriate carbon space in the future as they have done in the past. A fair distribution of the remaining carbon space based on historical responsibilities could have avoided this inequity
- Developed countries have got a carbon market, through which they can offset their emissions, so they will do even less domestically than what they have promised in their nationally determined contributions
- Paris agreement has agreed on a voluntary carbon market to buy and sell carbon credits. This means that the developed countries are likely to do even low emission cuts domestically as they will buy credits from the developing countries
What has India won and lost
- The Agreement is under the UN Convention. India has got right words like equity and common but differentiated responsibilities mentioned in many places
- It has also got terms like climate justice, sustainable lifestyle and consumption mentioned. But it must be noted that these are not in operational parts of the text and so there are no commitments for these things
- India also believes that it will not have to do much before 2030, but CSE analyses is that India will be under constant pressure to take more burden for mitigating climate change by 2020 and beyond, especially when the next review of all the nationally determined contributions of countries take place
“On the whole, the draft Paris agreement continues to be weak and unambitious, as it does not include any meaningful targets for developed countries to reduce their emissions. It notes that climate injustice is a concern of some and it maintains that the agreement will be under the UN convention. But as it does not operationalise equity and the term carbon budget didn’t even find mention in the text. This will end up furthering climate apartheid,” says Sunita Narain, director general, CSE.
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