Will the world finally work together to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement?
The recently published 1.5 degrees Celsius report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made it evident that it is required of every country to urgently enhance their climate mitigation action if the world is to limit temperature rise to 1.5C.
Breaching this temperature threshold would bring catastrophic impacts the world has never seen. The climate mitigation action is now regulated through nationally determined contributions (hereinafter referred to as NDCs) under the newly adopted multilateral agreement: The Paris Agreement.
Under Article 3 of the Paris Agreement, each country is required to undertake and communicate ambitious domestic mitigation pledges and targets to contribute to the “global response to climate change.”
The mitigation pledges and the target will be developed unilaterally by the state without any top-down rules. State’s respective capacity, discretion, flexibility, and national circumstance will be the key drivers to decide the state’s respective targets and timeframe.
The NDCs of each country will primarily reflect the country’s mitigation paths, action plans, and commitments to limit GHG emissions. Each party shall communicate their NDC every five years with information necessary for clarity, transparency, and understanding.
It is worth noting that the Paris Agreement sets forth a number of legally binding, specific “procedural” obligations relating to NDCs. State parties are required to make an effort to implement and achieve their respective NDC objectives.
Each state party communicated their first NDC at the time of submitting their Paris Agreement’s ratification instrument. For example, Bangladesh in its NDC pledged to reduce 5% GHG emissions unconditionally by 2030 from the power, transport, and industry sectors, based on existing resources.
The NDC also referred to a conditional 15% GHG emissions reduction by 2030, subject to appropriate international support in the form of finance, technology transfer, and capacity building.
It is worth noting that, to secure effective implementation of the 5% emission reduction target at the domestic level, Bangladesh recently adopted the NDC Implementation Roadmap and Sectoral Mitigation Action Plans for Power, Transport and Industry Sectors.
However, the gap between the global emission reductions needed and the states aggregated national pledges made in the submitted NDCs is alarmingly high. The UN Environment’s Emissions Gap Report 2017 concludes that the current submitted NDCs of all states cover only one-third of the emissions reductions goal of staying well below 2C.
As a consequence, it is projected that, even if the current pledges are fully implemented, it will still increase the global temperature by up to 2.7C to 3C in 90 years. It is clear that if the emissions gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the goal of holding global warming to well below 2C can be reached. Therefore, ambitious NDCs are essential.
The upcoming 24th conference of the Parties (COP24) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in December in Katowice, Poland is the immediate biggest opportunity for countries to address this emission gap and to take adequate action considering the 1.5C report seriously.
What countries decide in COP24 will determine climate mitigation efforts for years to come because, in this conference, it is expected that the state parties will adopt detailed implementing guidelines to operationalize the Paris Agreement.
Therefore, in COP24 needs to set us on a path to enhance the state’s mitigation ambition and close the emissions gap over the coming years.
Below are the five key issues that countries need to agree on to address the mitigation gap and to show their seriousness regarding limiting temperature rise to 1.5C.
Commitment to review and revise their NDCs by 2020: The Paris decision called on countries to communicate their NDCs every five years.
In COP24, parties should agree to review and revise their current NDC with a goal of communicating a more ambitious NDC by 2020. Parties should also agree to communicate long-term low-carbon strategies, ensuring that revised NDCs align with 2050 plans for decarbonization.
Communication of NDC: In COP24, parties should agree and adopt an outline for the structure of NDCs, ensuring that a minimum level of information is provided in all NDCs, regardless of the type of target adopted by the country.
Enhance transparency and accountability: To enhance transparency and ambition, parties should agree to include features in their respective NDC which can facilitate clarity, transparency, and accountability.
Information related to clarity, transparency, and accountability can drive the national government to take bigger challenges and increase their mitigation ambition.
Explain plans and actions: In COP24, parties should agree to provide information to build awareness of parties’ mitigation measures to achieve their NDC.
This will help both national stake-holders and the broader international community to understand plans, actions, and investments and can reinforce a party’s commitment to achieving its NDC.
Enabling conditions: Finance, technology, and capacity can reflect the difference between achieving NDC commitments or failing to meet them.
So, in COP24, parties should agree on adequate and accessible finance and technology to make NDCs implementable.
COP24 will either bring the world closer to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement 2015 of limiting temperature rise to 1.5C-2C or push action further down the road and make it harder and more expensive to respond to climate change.
By addressing the above-mentioned issues at COP24, parties need to secure a strong political commitment to enhance mitigation ambition and to reduce the mitigation gap.
Sharaban Tahura Zaman is an environmental lawyer, Dhaka Bar Association.