You are on page 1of 10

Issue Brief 2018

The Paris Agreement Needs to


Hold Countries Accountable for
their Carbon Emissions
An Issue Brief regarding Climate Change
4/16/18

Figure 1: The First "Successful" Attempt at Mitigating Climate Change1

LEAH MOTIMAYA | LZM50@PSU.EDU


PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSTY | SCHREYER HONORS COLLEGE
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

Problem Summary
What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement gives every country the ability to respond to climate
change on a national level as well as an international scale. The goal of this
agreement is to limit the global temperature rise to below 2 degree Celsius and
potentially as low as 1.5 degrees Celsius.2
The Paris Agreement while is a positive mitigation
addition to the fight against climate change, it
certainly has its faults. Countries are "binded" to
report progress on implementing carbon reduction
strategies, but they aren't required to change their
actions and mitigate their countries carbon
emissions.3 Not to mention, each country chooses the
amount their country can reduce, whatever they can
‘handle’.4 The current trend will result in a three to 4
degree increase, not the targeted two degree
increase.5

A solution would be to hold countries accountable for


the amount of carbon dioxide they release into the
atmosphere, and the carbon dioxide reduction
combined must result in a two degree increase as
stated in the current Paris Agreement. Each country
needs to reevaluate their current climate goals. Then
scientists need to work together and calculate if what
these countries promise to do will reach the targeted
2 degree increase. If the amounts are insufficient,
countries need to reevaluate until the targeted
amount is reached. These countries need to be held Figure 2: The Progression of Carbon Dioxide and its
Long Term Effects6
accountable for the amounts they promise to reduce.
If they fail, serious reprehensible behavior with
serious repercussion.

2
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

Technicalities(Issues) of the Agreement


Currently, countries are only required to report progress, not implement carbon
reduction strategies.7 Technically, the Center for Climate and Energy Solution’s
website states:

“The Paris Agreement establishes a set of binding procedural commitments.


Parties commit to “prepare, communicate and maintain” successive NDCs; to
“pursue domestic mitigation measures” aimed at achieving their NDCs; and to
regularly report on their emissions and on progress in implementing their NDCs.
The agreement also sets the expectation that each party’s successive NDC will
“represent a progression” beyond its previous one and “reflect its highest
possible ambition.” The achievement by a party of its NDCs is not a legally
binding obligation.”8

Between the fine lines of the Paris Agreement, they have made it possible – and
frankly easy – for countries to publicly(externally) proclaim they are a part of the
solution for climate change, but privately make little to no change in their
emission habits(practice).

Other countries use the agreement to boost their economy and make it
sustainable simultaneously. India, among many developing countries, openly
state they are willing to change over to more sustainable practices but only if
they are funded by the developed countries.9 These countries using climate
finance to fuel their developing economies and to become sustainable are
retrieving money from the climate funds.10 The climate funds are giving large
sums of money to countries like India, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, and South
Africa.11 These countries in total are receiving almost four billion dollars from
this program.12 India is receiving over one billion dollars from climate funds,
which is more than any other nation, as shown by Figure 3 below.13

3
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

Figure 3: As shown here, India easily is gaining the most from Climate Funds.14

Financial Hesitation
In theory, these unintended positive consequences shouldn’t deter countries
from helping these developing countries – since they are increasing
sustainability and decreasing the overall carbon footprint. Developed countries
aren’t necessarily keen on helping these countries. Not every country is like
China implementing rapid changes to their infrastructure – as well as helping
developing countries15. Some countries, like the United States, haven’t
implemented their own reduction strategies, increasing their reluctance to help
other countries.16

Figure 4: China's Commitment to Climate Change17

4
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

The United States Withdrew from the Paris Agreement


In fact, for the
reasons prior,
President Trump
backed out of the
Paris Agreement18.
While the United
States is still on track
to reach their
national goals, they
just chose to avoid
aiding other
countries19. Rather
than making a Figure 5: As displayed here, the United States emits significantly more
decision that is best carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The U.S.' only competitor is the entire
European Union, which consists of 28 countries.23
for the global
community, he made a choice best for the economy of the United States. This
sort of thinking, unfortunately, will not help us reach the two degree increase
goal.

America is used to its idle lifestyle, to the extent that it’s imbedded in the
culture. The inhabitants of other countries, especially in Europe, live reasonably
comfortable lives. American’s lives are twice as comfortable. For example,
Americans waste extraneous amounts of energy on air conditioning20. If
everyone adopted America’s poor air conditioning habits, energy use could
crease tenfold by 205021. Also, at large, Europeans doesn’t use clothes dryers,
but when they do they are twice as efficient22. If Americans could allow more
mundane things in their lives – like hanging clothes to dry and taking shorter
showers – it would make a “world” of a difference. This minor change would
make a significance difference to the overall population of the world as well as
help the reputation of the United States, since the United States is now the
highest polluter.24

5
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

Previous Attempts of a Climate Agreement


A climate related treaty has been attempted before but has failed on multiple
occasions25. Each time it failed, the UN(?) was requiring countries to commit to
their carbon emission reductions originally stated26. Most countries wouldn’t
even come to the table to discuss climate change since the obligation was too
great. Countries were more worried about their economies rather than the
climate, since it didn’t appear to be as serious of a problem. The global
community has recognized the seriousness of the issue at hand – aside from the
United States – and that’s the primary reason the Paris Agreement is even set
up today.

Unfortunately, today
the nations of the
world must work
together. They must
not only commit to
the carbon emission
reductions, but they
must commit to
significantly greater
reductions. As
mentioned previously,
the entire global
Figure 6: This displays the percentage of the global population that will be
community needs to
drown by only a 2 degree increase.28
decrease their carbon
emission to zero by 2040 to keep the temperature increase to two degrees or
less. Currently, the projected increase is three to four degrees, which is a
monumental problem. Since an average of 2.3 meters increase with 1-degree
Celsius, this would range from 6.9 to 9.2 meters of sea level rise27. This would
displace up to two billion people by 2100.29

6
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

Conclusion
Our global community is in a state of emergency and this is the easiest, most
energy efficient – both short-term and long-term – option. Not to mention, this is
the only option that can start today. There isn’t time to wait for geoengineers to
invent a more efficient carbon sequestration method, or to determine if blocking
the sun or increasing algae blooms would be more beneficial. These “solutions”
have a multitude of problems that climatologists have already
recognized/determined. There is a plethora of unknown problem that may and
likely will occur if these solutions are implemented.

In short, the best solution would be decreasing our carbon footprint to zero. The
first step to combatting climate change is increasing accountability and requiring
countries to decrease their carbon emissions drastically.

7
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

Sources
1 "UN Says Paris Agreement on Climate Change Must Aim for Long-term
Environmental Stability | UN News." United Nations. April 21, 2016. Accessed
April 12, 2018. https://news.un.org/en/story/2016/04/527372-un-says-paris-
agreement-climate-change-must-aim-long-term-environmental.
2 Sachs, Jeffrey, and Laurence Tubiana. Pathways to Deep Decarbonization.Technical
paper. Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). September 2014.
Accessed April 10, 2018. http://unsdsn.org/wp-
content/uploads/2014/09/DDPP_Digit.pdf.
3 "Paris Climate Agreement Q&A." Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. October
26, 2017. Accessed April 19, 2018. https://www.c2es.org/content/paris-climate-
agreement-qa/.
4 Ibid

5 Anonymous. "Paris Agreement." Climate Action - European Commission. February


16, 2017. Accessed April 19, 2018.
https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en.
6 "Infographic." Carbon Cycle & Foot Print. Accessed April 20, 2018.
https://carbontacos.weebly.com/infographic.html.
7 Same as 5
8 same as 5
9 "India among the Largest Recipients of Climate Change Assistance, but a Few Key
Questions Remain Unanswered." The Economic Times. November 25, 2017.
Accessed April 20, 2018. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-
and-nation/india-among-the-largest-recipients-of-climate-change-grants-but-
few-key-questions-remain-unanswered/articleshow/60343313.cms.
10 Ibid

11 Ibid
12 Ibid

13 Ibid

14 Ibid

8
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

15 "Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change in China-A Case Study of Heilongjiang


Province." Journal of Northeast Agricultural University (English Edition). March
23, 2017. Accessed April 20, 2018.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1006810417300260.
16 "Adaptation Strategies to Climate Change in China-A Case Study of Heilongjiang
Province." Journal of Northeast Agricultural University (English Edition). March
23, 2017. Accessed April 20, 2018.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1006810417300260.
17 same as 15
18 Zhang, Hai-Bin, Han-Cheng Dai, Hau-Xia Lai, and Wen-Tao Wang. "U.S. Withdrawal
from the Paris Agreement: Reasons, Impacts, and China's Response." Advances
in Climate Change Research. September 27, 2017. Accessed April 21, 2018.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674927817301028.
19 Ibid

20 Noack, Rick. "Europe to America: Your Love of Air-conditioning Is Stupid." The


Washington Post. July 22, 2015. Accessed April 21, 2018.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/07/22/europe-
to-america-your-love-of-air-conditioning-is-
stupid/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.53226ab0a196.
21 Ibid
22 Pentland, William. "Europe's Clothes Dryers Consume Half As Much Energy As
America's." Forbes. June 11, 2013. Accessed April 21, 2018.
https://www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/2013/06/11/europes-clothes-
dryers-consume-half-as-much-energy-as-americas/#589fc2885e67.
23 Ge, Mengpin, Johannes Friedrich, and Thomas Damassa. "6 Graphs Explain the
World's Top 10 Emitters." 6 Graphs Explain the World's Top 10 Emitters | World
Resources Institute. November 25, 2014. Accessed April 21, 2018.
https://wri.org/blog/2014/11/6-graphs-explain-world’s-top-10-emitters.
24 Ibid

25 ""History of UN Climate Talks." Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. October
25, 2017. Accessed April 21, 2018. https://www.c2es.org/content/history-of-un-
climate-talks/.
26 Ibid

9
An Issue Brief| The Paris Agreement Needs to Hold Countries Accountable for their Carbon Emissions

27 ""20% of the World's Population Will Migrate by Sea-level Rise."


BetterWorldSolutions - The Netherlands. August 12, 2016. Accessed April 21,
2018. https://www.betterworldsolutions.eu/20-of-the-worlds-population-will-
migrate-by-sea-level-rise/.
28 Ibid
29 Cornell University. "Rising seas could result in 2 billion refugees by 2100."
ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170626105746.htm
(accessed April 21, 2018).

10