The Pros & Cons of the Paris Agreement
Explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Paris Agreement, its role in combating climate change, and its impact on global cooperation.
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The Pros & Cons of the Paris Agreement
Explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Paris Agreement, its role in combating climate change, and its impact on global cooperation.
Published:
Loading reading time...
The Pros & Cons of the Paris Agreement
Explore the strengths and weaknesses of the Paris Agreement, its role in combating climate change, and its impact on global cooperation.
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Taking climate action: the pros & cons of the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement sparked debate about its advantages and disadvantages in addressing emissions.

Almost 200 countries and independent states signed the agreement, demonstrating the consensus that the fight against climate change must be a top priority for the world.

However, some argue that the Paris climate treaty may be insufficient in preventing catastrophic environmental impacts.

Pros and cons in a nutshell

Advantages

  • Near universal participation: The Paris Agreement has been signed by almost 200 countries, showing global consensus on the importance of combating climate change.
  • Flexible and inclusive framework: Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement requires each country to submit a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) outlining its climate actions. This approach encourages participation and allows for countries’ specific circumstances.
  • Ongoing improvement: NDCs are updated every five years, demonstrating increased ambition over time.
  • Global Stocktake: A review process occurs every five years to assess collective progress.
  • Green Climate Fund: Financial assistance is provided to developing countries for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • Transparency Framework: A robust system for reporting and reviewing progress fosters trust and accountability.

Disadvantages

  • Insufficient ambition: Experts argue that the climate agreement is not enough to prevent a 1.5°C temperature rise, which could lead to severe environmental consequences.
  • Lack of enforcement: The Paris Agreement relies on voluntary compliance, with no penalties for countries that fail to meet their NDC targets.
  • Unequal burden: Some critics claim that wealthier countries should bear more responsibility for reducing emissions and supporting developing countries.
Illustration titled 'Taking Climate Action: Pros & Cons of the Paris Agreement.' The illustration depicts a group of individuals consisting of a child, a woman, and two men holding plank cards in their hands to symbolize their efforts to combat climate change. One of the men is shown holding a speaker, representing advocacy and raising awareness.  On one side of the illustration, there is a globe, representing the Earth. Towards the top left of the globe, an industrial facility is depicted emitting smoke, symbolizing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.  The illustration conveys the idea of the pros and cons associated with the Paris Agreement, a global initiative to address climate change. It showcases the positive aspects of collective action and raising awareness, while also acknowledging the challenges posed by industrial activities and environmental pollution.  Overall, the illustration visualizes the ongoing efforts to mitigate climate change, presenting a balanced view of the advantages and disadvantages associated with the Paris Agreement.

Background

Historic significance

The Paris Agreement is a landmark climate change and greenhouse gas emissions treaty. It was signed in 2015 by 197 countries and aimed to limit global warming to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a goal of 1.5°C.

The agreement signifies a global commitment to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support for developing countries.

Kyoto Protocol

The Paris Agreement was developed to replace the Kyoto Protocol, an earlier treaty implemented in 1997 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol set legally binding targets for developed countries but faced challenges, such as major emitters not ratifying the protocol or being exempt from binding targets.

The new era

The Paris Agreement introduced significant changes to the global climate framework, making it more flexible and inclusive than the Kyoto Protocol.

Key features of the Paris Agreement include:

  • Global stocktake: A process to review collective progress occurring every five years, beginning in 2023.
  • Green climate fund: A financial mechanism to assist developing countries with climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
  • Transparency framework: A robust system for reporting and reviewing countries’ progress to foster mutual trust and accountability.

The Paris Agreement is a milestone in international climate negotiations, representing a shift towards a more cooperative and ambitious approach.

Key Components

Nationally Determined Contributions

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) form the core of the Paris Agreement. They outline each country’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

NDCs are submitted by each party based on local circumstances and capabilities, allowing for flexible planning and reporting on progress.

Global temperature goals

The Paris Agreement aims to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The aspiration is to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5°C.

To achieve this, countries must work collectively and individually to reduce their emissions drastically.

Adaptation

Adaptation is essential for countries to enhance their resilience against climate change impacts.

The Agreement acknowledges the importance of local adaptation efforts and international cooperation, sharing knowledge and increasing access to adaptation resources.

Financial support for developing nations

Developed nations must support developing countries financially to help them achieve their NDCs.

This includes assistance with climate finance, technology transfer, and capacity-building measures. The Green Climate Fund is a vital financial mechanism, supporting projects and programmes focused on climate adaptation and mitigation.

In summary, the key components of the Paris Agreement consist of NDCs, global temperature goals, adaptation efforts, and support for developing nations.

The Agreement aims to create an effective, inclusive, and sustainable response to climate change.

Pros

Economic opportunities

The Paris Agreement presents various economic opportunities, such as encouraging investment in clean and renewable energy.

These investments create jobs and stimulate the economy. Furthermore, businesses, universities and other organisations can collaborate to develop new clean technologies.

Illustration titled 'Economic Opportunities.' In the foreground, two men are depicted. One is holding a pot of plant, symbolizing environmental sustainability and green initiatives, while the other is holding a cell phone, representing technological advancements.  In the more front of the illustration, there is a sign of a dollar and a scale of equity, suggesting economic prosperity and fair distribution of resources. In the background, there are buildings and economic charts, indicating a growing economy and social opportunities.  The illustration conveys the idea that economic opportunities arise from a combination of environmental sustainability, technological advancements, and equitable distribution of resources. It symbolizes the potential for economic growth, prosperity, and social progress when these factors are integrated.  Overall, the illustration visualizes the positive relationship between economic opportunities, environmental consciousness, and technological advancements, highlighting the potential for a thriving economy with social inclusivity.

Environmental benefits

The primary goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit the global temperature increase to well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

This helps mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, like heat waves, droughts, and floods. Additionally, the agreement aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and promote better environmental policy overall.

Global collaboration

A significant strength of the international agreement is its near universal participation. Almost 200 countries have signed the agreement, demonstrating global commitment to combatting climate change.

This collaboration facilitates knowledge exchange and resource sharing among nations.

Positive political impact

The Paris Agreement has significant political implications. For instance, when Joe Biden re-joined the agreement, it signalled a renewed commitment to international cooperation on environmental issues.

Consequently, this fosters a sense of hope and the understanding that climate change is a priority for many governments worldwide.

It’s evident that the Paris Agreement offers various benefits, from economic growth through clean-energy investments to global cooperation in climate change mitigation. These advantages demonstrate the potential for a greener and more prosperous future for all nations involved.

Cons

Sovereignty concerns

One of the primary concerns surrounding the Paris Agreement is the potential infringement on state sovereignty.

Some critics argue that adhering to the agreement’s guidelines could limit a nation’s ability to make decisions regarding its domestic energy and economic policies.

In the case of the U.S., President Obama signed the agreement without seeking approval from Congress, which was a point of contention for opponents of the pact. The Trump administration later withdrew from the agreement, citing sovereignty concerns among other reasons.

Compliance and enforcement

Another drawback of the Paris Agreement is the lack of strict compliance mechanisms and enforcement tools.

While the agreement encourages countries to achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it relies on voluntary action from the participating countries.

There is no binding implementation, meaning states can set their own targets and policies. This approach raises concerns about free-riding and whether the agreement can ultimately achieve its goal of limiting global warming.

Illustration titled 'Compliance and Enforcement.' The image features four settings symbols, each representing different aspects of compliance and enforcement.  In the first setting symbol, there is a bulb of sustainability, signifying the importance of sustainable practices and compliance with environmental regulations.  In the second setting symbol, there are leaves, representing nature and ecological compliance, emphasizing the need to protect and preserve the environment.  In the third setting symbol, there are additional leaves, further emphasizing the importance of ecological compliance and sustainable actions.  In the fourth setting symbol, there are sustainability symbols, indicating the focus on promoting and enforcing sustainable practices in various sectors.  The illustration visually represents the key themes of compliance and enforcement related to sustainability, environmental regulations, and the need for responsible actions to protect the environment.

The burden on developed countries

The Paris Agreement places a higher burden on developed countries regarding funding and emissions reductions.

Developed nations, including the U.S. and European countries, are expected to contribute financial resources to help developing countries transition to cleaner energy sources and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

While this is intended to address historical emissions and capacity differences, it can be viewed as unfair by some developed nations.

  • Critics argue that the financial burden should be shared more equitably among all countries
  • The agreement’s focus on decarbonisation can lead to job losses and adverse economic effects in sectors reliant on fossil fuels, affecting the economies of developed countries

Despite these drawbacks, the Paris Agreement remains a critical global effort to address climate change.

Impact on the United States

Actions by the Obama administration

Under President Barack Obama, the United States played a crucial role in negotiating the Paris Agreement. Obama’s administration advocated for global climate cooperation and committed to reducing the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below the 2005 levels by 2025.

The Agreement received strong support from various sectors, including businesses, universities, and local governments, emphasising the importance of collective action in fighting climate change.

The Trump administration’s withdrawal

The Trump administration took a different stance on the Paris Agreement. President Donald Trump announced in 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Agreement, expressing concerns about potential job losses and negative impacts on the U.S. economy.

This decision was criticised by numerous stakeholders, who argued that leaving the Agreement would slow the global effort to combat climate change and weaken the United States’ position as a global leader.

Re-joining under President Joe Biden

In 2021, President Joe Biden reversed the previous administration’s decision and re-committed the United States to the Paris Agreement.

Biden’s administration aims to accelerate climate actions, with plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further and invest in clean energy technologies.

The rejoined United States intends to play an active role in global climate initiatives, collaborating with other countries and utilising the provisions of the Paris Agreement to achieve a greener and more sustainable future.The Role of Non-State Actors

Cities

Cities play a critical role in implementing the Paris Agreement, as they are responsible for a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions.

By taking local actions, such as promoting clean energy and sustainable transport, cities can help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Some cities have even set more ambitious targets than national governments, showcasing their commitment to fighting climate change.

Universities and businesses

Universities and businesses are vital non-state actors in addressing climate change. Universities can contribute through research, innovation, and education, helping to develop new technologies and solutions to achieve net zero emissions.

Businesses, on the other hand, have a direct impact on the economy and energy consumption patterns. They can adopt clean energy solutions, invest in renewable energy projects, and implement sustainable practices in line with the Paris Agreement goals.

States and regions

States and regions also play an essential role in implementing the Paris Agreement. This is especially true in federal systems or developing nations, where they may have more authority over local energy and environmental policy.

By establishing their own climate targets and policies, states and regions can support national efforts and help close the emissions gap.

Future Outlook

Sea level rise

Rising sea levels are a significant concern. As global temperatures rise, the melting of ice caps and glaciers is expected to cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal communities and ecosystems.

This could lead to the displacement of millions of people, loss of habitats and biodiversity, and the degradation of water supplies. Thus, mitigating the impacts of sea level rise is crucial to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Net zero targets

Another crucial aspect of the Paris Agreement is the global push for net-zero carbon emissions. Countries strive to achieve their net zero targets by adopting cleaner energy sources and reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

President Joe Biden has committed to climate change mitigation by rejoining the Paris Agreement and endorsing ambitious climate change policies to reduce emissions.

The Agreement encourages individual countries to adjust and strengthen their emission reduction targets every five years, making sure that obligations remain stringent and relevant.

Building on Paris at the Glasgow Conference

Glasgow Climate Pact

The Glasgow Climate Conference (COP26) produced several notable outcomes, including adopting the Glasgow Climate Pact, aiming to make the 2020s a decade of climate action and support.

Key agreements included revisiting climate pledges under the Paris Agreement, enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by the end of 2022, and discussing a new global climate finance goal effective post-2025.

Despite these advances, critics argue that COP26’s outcome was a compromise and inadequate in addressing the urgent need for global climate action.

Major Commitments

  • Methane emissions reduction: Over 100 countries pledged to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030.
  • Deforestation: Countries committed to ending deforestation by 2030.
  • Climate finance: Developed countries pledged to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance to poorer countries, aiming to reach this target by 2023.
  • Loss and damage: COP26 addressed the concept of loss and damage, focusing on the irreversible impacts of climate change and increasing support for those affected.

Clean Energy Transition and Net-Zero Targets

  • Renewable energy: Countries committed to renewable energy in their climate pledges, with many nations increasing their renewable energy production.
  • Phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles: Over 30 countries agreed to phase out sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, supporting the adoption of electric vehicles and green technologies.

While COP26 made progress in several areas, it also highlighted the need for more ambitious action from governments and more robust measures against the climate crisis.

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Author

Rob Boyle
Rob built Emission Index to collect and share data, trends and opportunities to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and expedite the energy transition.

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