A half of a degree: five questions about Paris climate agreement

The headquarters of the UN

The essence of the Paris agreement?

The Paris climate agreement was made during the climate conference in Paris in December 2015 and signed by most countries in the world in April 2016. Agreement (.pdf) will replace the previous document regulating global emissions — the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. The document will be, starting in 2020, to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides).

The text of the agreement contains neither absolute nor relative figures on the quantities that a country will have to reduce emissions, the reductions will be voluntary, but to make them will have all of the signatory countries, regardless of their level of economic development. The document only set the common global goal — by the end of the XXI century to hold the increase in global average temperature compared to preindustrial level below 2 degrees Celsius and efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.

Under the agreement, developed countries agreed to allocate annually to developing countries to $100 billion for the implementation of environmental policy. To date, the document was ratified by 92 countries out of 197 that have signed the agreement (ratifications — China, USA, France, Germany, etc.).

How realistic are the goals of the agreement?

The goal to limit global warming, stated in the Paris agreement are very ambitious and even impossible. Now the willingness of States to a particular level of reductions of harmful emissions is reflected in the so-called “presumed nationally determined contributions” (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, indcs does) — documents, which almost all countries of the world served at the UN. These documents are not legally binding. According to a study (.pdf) Massachusetts Institute of technology, with 95% probability before the end of the century under the observance and fulfillment of the current obligations to reduce emissions, temperatures will rise by 3.7 degrees Celsius. The most optimistic estimates (IEA, Climate Action Tracker), the temperature increase will be 2.7 degrees Celsius. In the report of the UN environment programme (UNEP) notes that to achieve the objectives of the Paris agreement will need to be cut greenhouse gas emissions by an additional 12-14 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent.

In order to reverse the situation, the Paris agreement provides for the revision of national contributions to reduce harmful emissions every five years, starting in 2020. In this document there is no clear definition of mechanisms for the monitoring of emission reductions (in the text of the agreement mentions that the implementation of its provisions should not be punitive in nature and should be exercised with respect for national sovereignty).

The targets of the Paris agreement will require a significant increase in investment in cleaner technology. According to estimates by Bank of America Merrill Lynch to achieve targets in growth temperature by 2030 will need to increase investments in renewable energy more than three times (from the current level of $270 billion a year to $900 billion).

That gave the previous agreement?

The main difference between the previous global instrument to regulate climate, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris agreement — that developed economies took on a clear legal obligation to reduce emissions of harmful substances. The legally binding nature of the agreement eventually led to the fact that the U.S. Senate (second largest emissions country in the world) just refused to ratify it. At the same time in countries such as India and China, the Kyoto Protocol’s legal obligations are not imposed.

The fact that China and the United States, the largest country in emissions of greenhouse gases, in fact, were beyond the scope of the agreement, led in 2011 to the exit from the Kyoto Protocol Canada (however, no penalties for Ottawa is not turned). The estimates of the Global Carbon Project show that no positive effects in the reduction of harmful emissions, the Kyoto Protocol has not brought. Against this background, the achievements of Russia that the Kyoto Protocol imposes legal obligations, significant look — Russia by 2012, reduced emissions by 31.8% from the 1990 level, while liabilities only do not exceed this level.

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris agreement aims to reduce emissions by all parties to the agreement, regardless of their level of economic development.

How serious the problem of global warming?

In November 2015 meteorological service of great Britain reported that the excess average annual temperature of pre-industrial levels approaching the record of 1 degree Celsius. According to NASA, the increase was 0.8 degrees Celsius. For the pre-industrial level is set to the average temperature of 1850-1900.

In 2013, following the meeting of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (under the auspices of the UN) released a report in which confidence is that anthropogenic factors were the main reasons for the increase in temperature since 1951 was estimated at 95%.

The increase in mean annual temperature more than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels may lead, in particular, to drought and be detrimental to grain yield. Other negative effects associated with global warming, rising sea levels, longer seasons, forest fires, more destructive storms, melting of ice etc.

If the scientific community is confident that the cause of global climate change is human activity close to absolute, this cannot be said about politicians. In particular, an opponent of the theory of anthropogenic global warming is the candidate in US presidents from Republican Donald trump. In may, trump announced that “cancel” U.S. participation in the Paris agreement in the event of his election victory.

What will Russia do?

Russia, which as of 2014 was the fourth-leading emissions of harmful substances, not yet included in the number of States that have ratified the agreement. The document was signed by Moscow six months ago — his signature under the agreement in April 2016 has put Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Khloponin. At the same time Vice-Premier stated that Russia’s contribution to the Paris agreement will be a limit of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 70% of that in 1990.

As announced in June, the Agency TASS, the Russian presidential adviser Alexander Bedritsky, the ratification by the Russian side may not occur until 2019-2020. Bedritsky noted that the Russian authorities have not yet begun to develop national low-carbon development Strategy, pointing out that the work on the document will take at least two years. “Our business, especially the one who supplies the products for export, understands that it will take a little time and it will be impossible to compete in the market with products whose carbon footprint more than the other,” — said the presidential adviser.

However, the attitude of Russian business to the Paris agreement was ambiguous. In December 2015 the basic owner “Rusala” Oleg Deripaska, in an interview with the Financial Times called the Paris agreement “nonsense” and proposed to introduce a global carbon tax from $15 per tonne of CO2 equivalent.

The possible adverse effects of such measures in June 2016, said the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin. In his letter to Vladimir Putin, he noted that the Paris agreement, Russia will create “significant risks for the fuel and energy complex of the Russian Federation, which has strategic importance for the economy”. Shokhin, in particular, noted that implementation of the proposal on the “carbon tax” at the rate of $15 per ton of CO2 equivalent will cost the Russian economy up to $100 billion a year, while the damage from climate change will amount to 60 billion rubles per year. According to head RSPP, the commitments under the Paris agreement can be executed using existing tools (nuclear and renewable energy) and without additional regulation of the sector energy.