Every week the Partners read articles that spark conversations and reflect their diverse points of view. This week they are discussing, “Negotiators Try to Figure Out What the Paris Climate Agreement Means,” from Scientific American.
General cooperation of nations to solve global related issues should be applauded in most cases. The problem with the FCCC Paris agreements, and even this article, is the lack of any enforcement or even an understanding of legal structure that will allow a sensible plan to be put in place. At the center of this orbit is our current President and his administration. It has agreed to a global structure which at best lacks the legal or enforcement means to comply with our constitutional structure. For those interested in climate change and feel it is a threat to Global health, it must word to ratify a treaty like any US agreement and send it through the US Senate. This has been the hallmark of democracy and allows public will to weigh in on these matters. Doing so will allow for transparency and popular support. Not following the path most treaties fall under is both contemptuous and ethically wrong. The process is about helping and protecting people, not the heavy hand of Government telling you what to accept.
It is important to track history of climate change negotiations to understand why this inflection point is carries such import in moving forward. Starting with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro. Since then there have been 21 Conferences of the Parties (COP) of which the latest, COP 21 produced the Paris Agreement. It has been the case, and I assume that it will continue to be the case, that progress is made incrementally especially with so many competing interests (EU vs. Umbrella States; Small Island States vs. Oil Producing Nations). I have no confidence that monumental change will be made prior to the next COP (22 in Marrakech) but potentially monumental is not needed as the world races to be below 2 Degrees (Celsius) of Separation.
What fascinates me about this article is the openness of acknowledging the very real difference between intent and execution of climate change policies (taking politics, for the moment, out of the context). What we see now is a full appreciation for the morality and psychology of wanting to address environmental issues. However, attempting to tackle and “change” Climate Change (pardon the tortured verbage) is in actuality something that cannot be done without common acceptance from any and all quarters. The intention has long been to make Climate Change a function of the Developed World (First World, West, etc) to solve on behalf of the world. Reading the negotiation conversations to date, there seems to be common acceptance that the largest gains in reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gases would come directly from Indian and Chinese abatement protocols. Sadly, the negotiators and signatories are as-yet unwilling to make the call on mandated reductions in emissions there. There likely will be more hand-wringing before all is said and done, and a few more gratuitous accusations of terrible Western practices. But I wonder if there would not be a willingness to reconstitute the budget for the IPCC and UN Councils to provide CTG retrofitting technology implementation and/or subsidization of even a natgas power plant construction from the delta of coal-fired plants in India and China. We have seen the statistics as recently as October 2015 that if India changed all of their coal-fired power plants to natgas, and China switched (I believe I remember the number correctly) 25% to natgas, we would achieve the 2degree COP21 accord limit. Not to say that the West does not have work to do as well, but let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit now and reach a stability level with extant tech capability, so that we can fully look at new technology effects for true honest future-gen.