NSC on facebookNSC on twitterNSC RSS news feed

Paris Climate Agreement: success or monumental fudge?

News from Nicaragua | Friday, 6 May 2016 |

According to the UN general – secretary Ban Ki-Moon, the Paris Climate Change Agreement was a ‘monumental triumph for people and our planet…setting the stage for ending poverty.’ 

However many countries, including Nicaragua, expressed profound concerns that Agreement ‘will not solve global warming problems but simply postpone them.’  Paul Oquist, Nicaragua’s chief negotiator to the Paris Summit. 

What came out of the Summit is insufficient, with no real commitment to planetary climate justice, especially for the least protected and most vulnerable peoples around the world. The pledges of the most powerful countries to reduce carbon emissions are inadequate to the task, as is the amount of financial resources agreed for technological transfer, adaptation and compensation for losses and damages.

Nicaragua has refused to ratify the Paris Agreement as doing so would mean being complicit in an Agreement that will lead to a ‘catastrophic three degree increase in global warming’ because the ‘largest polluters lack political will and ambition and are failing to accept their historical responsibility.’

The following is a summary of a paper entitled ‘Myths and Truths about the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (COP-21)’ written by Paul Oquist, January, 2016

Myth No1: The Paris Agreement will limit the rise in average global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees this century.

Truth No 1. The voluntary carbon reduction commitments made by countries in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), even if they are implemented, will ‘lead us to a world with a 3 degree increase in global temperatures this century.’  This is more than 50% above the target of 2 degrees and 100% more than the 1.5 degree target.  What other programme in the world would be considered a success when it fails to meet its targets by 50 – 100 %?

Myth No 2. The great achievement of the COP-21 is that the INDCs of more than 147 countries are based on the principle of universal responsibilities.

Truth No 2. The INDCs are based on the principle that “we are all responsible for climate change and we all have to contribute to the solution.” This means there is no apportioning of blame on the largest polluters, historically responsible for the highest levels of emissions. 

COP-21 invented the concept of universal responsibilities to nullify the concepts of “historic responsibilities” and “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR), the hallmark of the UN Convention on Climate Change.  INDCs based on voluntary “universal responsibilities” will be a failure. The only solution is to have a quota system based on historic responsibilities and obligatory common but differentiated responsibilities.

This part of the Agreement represented a significant step backwards in that the International Convention on Climate Change states that the carbon reductions of the largest polluters will be compulsory while those of less responsible countries will be voluntary.

Myth No 3: It was a great victory for the countries most affected by climate change to have the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage included in the document

Truth No 3: Nicaragua hoped that, from COP-21, would come a compensation mechanism for the countries that are suffering year on year from the deaths, damages and losses caused by climate change. The countries with the historic responsibilities for having caused the problem must compensate those countries that are suffering the consequences despite having had no role in their creation. Although the Agreement defines an amount of US$100bn annually starting in 2020 as being needed for compensating countries for loss and damage related to climate change there is no obligation on any country to recognise a compensation claim and no financing has been earmarked to cover the costs.

Myth No 4. The Paris Agreement is not enough by itself but it opens the way to dealing with climate change in due course.

Truth No 4: The Paris outcome is similar to the rescue by governments of the banks which caused the financial and economic crisis, passing the bill for the crisis to workers, pensioners and taxpayers. In Paris, the rescue was of the COP-21 governments of the countries which have caused global warming, passing the cost to those least responsible who will die in the largest numbers unable to make good their losses, much less adapt to a change in climate increasing in intensity as the century wears on.

As Prince Charles pointed out in a speech at COP-21, it would only take a 1.7% reduction in consumption to move towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, as Paul Oquist highlights ‘this is not doable because there's no willingness to make any sacrifices on the policy sphere and that's why we have this very poor level of ambition.’

The Paris Agreement is not enough because it does not transform nor even inconvenience the current model of production, consumption, finance and lifestyle, which is unsustainable. 

A world three degrees warmer is prescribed for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, due to developed countries’ low level of ambition for reduction. And to top it all, compensation rights are refused.  Intergenerational solidarity ended in Paris. Paul Oquist

Action that Nicaragua is taking

Nicaragua’s carbon emissions represent 0.03% of global emissions. However, as the second poorest country in the Americas, its model of development is seriously threatened because of vulnerability to the increase in intensity and frequency of extreme weather associated with climate change.

Since 2007, the Nicaragua government has implemented a programme of rapid transformation to renewable energy taking advantage of abundant sunshine, water, geothermal and biogas potential. In 2007 25% of the energy supply was from renewables, in 2015 this reached 56% with a target of 90% by 2020.

Nicaragua is committed to continuing to play its part in reducing carbon emissions while at the same time arguing internationally for a greater sense of political ambition and commitment on the part of the rich polluters to recognise the catastrophic consequences of failing to take much stronger action.