A historical deal on climate change in Paris

A historical deal on climate change in Paris

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Finally, after more than 20 years of negotiations under the U.N., we experienced a historic approval process on a new climate change agreement on Dec. 12. In the 21st Session Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which took place in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2015, political leaders from 195 countries negotiated a new international binding climate change agreement which will replace the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2020.

In the run-up to the conference, more than 180 countries covering nearly 95 percent global emissions submitted their emission reduction plans (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions - INDCs) for a new agreement. The core objective is to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2 Celsius by 2100. However, the UNFCCC’s INDCs Synthesis Report illustrated that the current INDCs could only enable a “slow reduction” on emissions for the near future. This slow reduction will end up with global warming above 2 Celsius. 

So what does the deal include?

What the Paris Agreement includes

Firstly, it maintains the already well-established principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” of developed and developing countries in the light of different national circumstances. Further, the agreement recognizes that Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States have special circumstances. Secondly, maybe the most important clause of the text, holding the increase below 2 Celsius above pre-industrial level and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 Celsius is emphasized in the agreement. The critical part here is “recognizing 1.5 Celsius” in the text which is a very important reference for vulnerable countries. Thirdly, the current INDCs will limit global warming to more than 2 Celsius so that national commitments will be reviewed every five years. 

The agreement commits that the existing Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage will be significantly strengthened as well. This point encompasses minimizing and addressing “loss and damage” associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather event sands low on set events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of “loss and damage.”

What about phasing out of the use of fossil fuels? Even though there is no certain timeline regarding the targets, countries commit to phasing out the use of fossil fuels while increasing renewable energy. The agreement also invites the IPCC to present a special report in 2018 on limiting warming commitments.

Turkey’s position in Paris

In Paris, Turkey’s demand was mainly based on a “differentiation” clause. Turkey firstly demanded to be defined as a “developing country.” Secondly, Turkey asked developed countries for financial support to meet its national mitigation targets. However, the Paris Draft Outcome published on Dec. 5 was not satisfactory for Turkey. This is because Turkey was not identified as a country receiving Green Climate Fund. In the last version, the reference of “the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building support by developed countries to enable enhanced pre-2020 action by developing countries” is included in the agreement. Turkey’s chief negotiator, Prof. Mehmet Emin Birpınar, made a speech at the final plenary session on Dec. 12 and stated that Turkey will wait for promised commitments in the agreement. 

In Turkey, total emissions were calculated as 459.1 million tons CO2 equivalent in 2013. Energy-based emissions are the biggest portion of total emissions with 82.2 percent. Industrial processes and products use with 15.7 percent follows the energy sector. The Industrial sector was followed by agricultural activities with 10.8 percent and waste with 5.7percent, according to data from the Turkish Statistics Institute (TÜİK) released in May. Importantly, Turkey is a fast-growing country with a high carbon economy. Although Turkey is not one of the top emitters such as the U.S., Canada, China, India and Australia, the rate of increase in emissions is quite high. Emissions per capita in Turkey are quite low compared to these countries. However, the high rate of increased emissions is striking. Indeed, emissions increased by 110.4 percent in 2013 compared to the level of 1990. So Turkey should take actions to move to a low-carbon economy by focusing on more clean investments.

Time to act

The Kyoto Protocol will be completed in four years. Further, the agreement commits to a five-year cycle system. Therefore, 2020 will be crucial for checking out the countries’ commitments. Economic data is always appropriate to draw attention to developments in this area. Here is a good example of data on how climate change will affect the global economy by 2100. According to research conducted by the University of California, the global economy could be more than 20 percent smaller by 2100 if the current “business-as-usual” warming scenarios continue. Phasing out fossil fuels and enhancing investments on renewables is the key, as mentioned by IPCC Reports. The world has an approved agreement, so now is the “time for action” with science and the international efforts built on a spirit of cooperation between governments, citizens, civil society partners and private sector actors.