The President’s Text: Invertebrate and Vulnerable - Kennedy Graham COP21 blog 4

Dr Kennedy Graham, MP, New Zealand

The President’s text of the Paris Agreement was released today (Wednesday).  Building on the original draft of February, revised in June and again in October, and submitted by ADP to the Plenary last weekend, the latest text has been weakened to a dangerous degree.  

It is, of course, a comprehensive document.  It covers mitigation, adaptation, financing, loss & damage, technology transfer and capacity-building by way of substance, as well as procedural, institutional and legal aspects.  

But the critical piece, the overarching existential issue, is mitigation.  How much and how fast can humankind reduce its greenhouse gas emissions? How much, how fast, can we stop spewing carbon into the atmosphere and the oceans as if there is no tomorrow?  How successfully can we avert (not prevent) climate change? Can we avoid dangerous climate change?  Can we avoid catastrophic climate change?

On this, the President’s text of 9 Dec. has weakened the co-chairs’ text of 5 Dec. to a dangerous degree.  With mitigation, there are eight main components: purpose, long-term goal, individual effort, progression, timing, ex ante process, adjustments, and stocktake.  With four of these, the text remains more or less unchanged (individual effort; progression, timing and adjustment).  But in four others, the text is weakened, as is shown below.


Purpose

In Saturday’s text, the purpose was ‘to take urgent action’ to hold the global average temperature increase below 1.5°C or well below 2°C.    

Wednesday’s text offers three options: To hold the global average temperature increase

  1. below 2°C;
  2. well below 2°C and rapidly scale up global efforts to limit the increase below 1.5°C;
  3. below 1.5°C.

Comment:

The choice between 2°C and 1.5°C still has to be made.  The weakness of the new text, however, is two-fold:

  • The earlier text had two options below 2 °C; the current text includes 2°C;
  • In the earlier text the Parties agree to take urgent action; in the current text they don’t,    


Long-term goal

In the earlier text, the Parties would adopt, as the goal to achieve the purpose, one of the following

  1. Peaking global GHG emissions ‘as soon as possible’;
  2. Rapid reductions ‘to at least a X% compared to 20XX levels by 2050’;
  3. Achieving zero global GHG emissions by 2060-2080;
  4. A long-term low-emissions transformation toward climate neutrality over the course of this century;
  5. Equitable distribution of a global carbon budget based on historical responsibility and climate justice.   


In the current text there are two options only:

  1. Parties ‘collectively aim’ to reach the global temperature goal by:

  • peaking global GHG emissions ‘as soon as possible’; OR
  • rapid reductions of [40% to 70%] OR [70% to 95%] below 2010 levels by 2050; OR
  • achieving zero global GHG emissions by the end OR after the middle of the century;
  1. A long-term low-emissions transformation toward climate neutrality over the course of this century;

Comment:

Note that the critical option (equitable distribution of the GCB) has been taken out.

If option (b) is selected, there will be no global percentage target mitigation.

It is extraordinary that, 25 years after the IPCC’s 1st assessment report on climate change by the world’s top scientists, the world’s top diplomats cannot comprehend the percentage reductions required for a specified temperature increase.


Ex ante process

The earlier text contained the critical element: Article 11 required each party to submit, not only their intended contribution but also their aggregate effect in the light of the long-term temperature goal.

The current text has taken this out.


Global Stocktake

The same thing has happened with the stocktake.

In the earlier text, the outcome of the global stocktake was to inform the Parties in enhancing their actions, with a view to achieving the purpose and long-term goals and increasing the ambition.  In other words, what is the effect on the temperature of their commitment.

The current text has taken this out.


Conclusion

As push comes to shove (as the trade-style zero-sum, outdated, antiquated multilateral negotiating machinery with 196 States Parties nears its structural crisis-point in COP-21), the critical pieces in the text that would hold our feet to the fire have been softened or surgically removed.   

In my 3rd blogpost, I said the Agreement was the work of an addict.  Here you see the addict, having identified the behavioural change required, shrinks back at the last moment.

Tomorrow, I shall draft a simple set of articles on mitigation for the Paris Agreement, which would be all that is required to achieve the objective of the 1992 Framework Convention, namely, the avoidance of dangerous climate change.

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