2016 has already got off to a frenetic pace and is set to get even busier. A referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the European Union is highly possible, a decision is expected on increasing London’s airport capacity and a review of human rights legislation is promised. Meanwhile, public sector bodies are busy working out the implications of November’s Spending Review while Whitehall’s Single Departmental Plans are designed to translate the Spending Review numbers into policy actions. Meantime the Cabinet is locked in a battle with NHS providers which the Welsh Secretary last night pretty much admitted would spill over to nursing and ancillary staff.
The key issue that we see is a longer term one. Will the Paris climate-change agreement, signed in December, matter?
It’s beginning to look like it will. One of the key things which the Paris agreement overcomes is the dichotomous distinction between Annex I and non-Annex I countries. That distinction was first introduced in the climate negotiations at COP-1 in Berlin in 1995. This was introduced to fulfil the promise of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992). The principle was further codified two years later in the Kyoto Protocol.
Unfortunately the distinction between the developed and developing countries in the Kyoto Protocol has made progress on climate change painful because the major growth in emissions since the Protocol came into force in 2005 is entirely in the large developing countries—China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico, and Indonesia.
The big break came at the annual UNFCCC bash/negotiating session in Durban, South Africa in 2011, where a decision was adopted by member countries to “develop [by December 2015, in Paris] a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.” This “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action” broke with the Kyoto Protocol.
So what is going to happen instead?
Further to the negotiations under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), the Conference of the Parties (COP), by its decision 1/CP.19, invited all Parties to initiate or intensify domestic preparations for their INDCs towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2, without prejudice to the legal nature of the contributions, in the context of adopting a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties ie. each Country comes up with a plan.
Remarkably, 186 of the 195 members of the UNFCCC submitted INDCs by the end of the Paris talks, representing some 96% of global emissions. Contrast that with the Kyoto Protocol, which now covers countries (Europe and New Zealand) accounting for no more than 14% of global emissions (and 0% of global emissions growth).
So we have a near global agreement with countries which have plans but this is only the first step with this new approach. The INDCs will be assessed and revised every five years, with their collective ambition ratcheted up over time.
That said, even this initial set of contributions could cut anticipated temperature increases this century to about 3.5 degrees Centigrade, more than the frequently-discussed aspirational goal of limiting temperature increases to 2 degrees C (or the new aspirational target from Paris of 1.5 degrees C), but much less than the 5-6 degrees C increase that would be expected on a ‘business as usual pathway’. (An amendment to the Montreal Protocol to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) emissions is- if it ever happens- is likely to shave an addition 0.5 C of warming.)
So the Paris Agreement is key: it represents 96% of emissions, has a clear and accountable structure for transparent emission measurement, a process- for improvements on a five year cycle and provides for ‘heterogenous linkage’, including internationalized carbon markets through something which in the jargon are called ITMOs.
We work with quite a few renewables developers and those concerned with issues around sustainability and this is a welcome relief to a sector which has seen too many false dawns. Now countries are developing action plans to deliver on their INDCs it is possible to get a steer. Any development of a further price for carbon on an international basis would also make decarbonisation efforts much more likely.
As 2016 looks to be a big political year with the headline issues triggering a huge amount of debate it could be some technical negotiations which historians look back on as crucial. We will be compiling a report on INDCs commitments to help policymakers and businesses understand the global market and country specific markets for low-carbon technologies. Let us know if you if would be interested in the service.
During his career, Simon has advised numerous blue chip clients and has worked on a number of large scale communications programmes. Simon has extensive international experience and was a previous Secretary General of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO), a trade association representing over 1,000 PR agencies in 28 countries.
Latest posts by Simon Quarendon (see all)
- The Referendum Battle Lines are Now Drawn - February 22, 2016
- How the Paris Talks Affect You - February 12, 2016
- How can companies respond to climate change after the Paris talks? - December 21, 2015