Paris Agreement leaves toughest decisions for the future, but it’s already changing the energy landscape

Paris Agreement leaves toughest decisions for the future, but it’s already changing the energy landscape

By Eric J. Lyman (@EricJlyman)

Finalized during a dramatic extra day of negotiations at the Paris climate summit, the Paris Agreement sets out a game plan for the world to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial level. Now, all the world just has to do is follow through on it.

The Paris deal is important because it is the collective work of 195 countries, and it is the first climate deal that will include some form of action for virtually every country on the planet.

But it also leaves most of the hardest decisions and the most difficult action for the future.

The agreement does obligate wealthy, industrialized countries to provide at least $100 billion a year to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and it sets up the outlines for a framework for regular reviews aimed at reducing emissions over time. The goal of keeping warming “well below” 2 degrees was also agreed to.

But each of these points will require extra work in order to give them meaning.

“The agreement is part of a road through Paris, not one ending in Paris,” Rodne Galicha of the Philippine environmental coalition Aksyon Klima.

On the financial goals, for example, the establishes the $100 billion per annum figure as a minimum level after 2020, but specific goals for after that year must still be agreed to. The so-called “ratcheting mechanism” asks the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change to explore scenarios to keep warming to within specified limits by 2018, after which countries will be “requested” to revisit and strengthen their domestic commitments to confront climate change to take into account new technologies and changing circumstances. But there is nothing to require countries to do so.

For the “well below” 2-degree goal, countries must still define what “well below” means, and they must start quickly to implement climate pledges submitted this year, called INDCs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. The INDCs, are expected to keep warming to within 2.7 to 3.5 degrees, keeping the 2-degree target within range.

What the agreement does not include is any specific targets related to renewable energy. The word “energy” appears in the 32 pages of the Paris agreement and related parts of the Paris outcome only three times, and none of them related to any specific goals or targets for energy use. Yet, expert observers said energy is the one issue that cuts across most of the goals laid out in the Paris deal.

“Countries shied away from agreeing to specific energy-related language in the text,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “But there is no way to reach 2 degrees or most of the other goals without a dramatic increase in renewable energy use.”

Already, in the wake of the Paris summit, fossil fuel stocks — led by coal companies — sunk on fears that tough regulations will be bad news for them. Renewable energy stocks rose modestly.

“It’s fair to say the future will most likely be brighter for renewables and more difficult for traditional fuel companies based on what came out of Paris,” said Javier Noriega, chief economist with Hildebrandt and Ferrar. “But that all depends on how countries follow through on Paris.”

Source: Behind Energy

Date: December 2015


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