On Earth Day 2016, roughly 120 countries began signing the first ever global, legally binding treaty on climate change: The Paris Agreement. This plan may just be the biggest step towards environmental responsibility ever, and the head of the Climate Change Conference called it an “historic turning point”. But not everyone thinks it’s a step in the right direction, critics and even supporters have panned the agreement as ineffective. So, what exactly is in the Paris Agreement, and why is it so important? Well, the Paris Agreement came about as a result of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, attended by 196 representatives from around the world. The overall purpose of both the agreement and conference was to stop global warming from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial temperatures. The Agreement not only establishes this two-degree upper limit, but notes a focus on keeping it from rising even one-and-a-half degrees Celsius. This number makes sense, because although it doesn’t seem very high, over the past 10,000 years, the global temperature has only fluctuated by about one degree. So, how exactly does the Agreement plan to accomplish this limit? Well to be fair, it is a little vague on that note. Each participatory country is encouraged to set their own achievable response, which is required by Article 3 to be [quote] “ambitious”.
But the real heart is in the top 55 biggest polluters, who contribute 55% of the world’s pollution. The Agreement is only intended to go into effect if these 55 countries ratify it. Most importantly, the US and China, who alone produce about 40% of global emissions, have pledged to sign. To it’s end, the United States has also pledged three billion dollars to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries invest in lowering their emissions, and slowing climate change. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Republicans in Congress have attempted to stop both the US’s involvement in the Paris Agreement, as well as the Green Climate Fund. But, despite the importance of having such a framework in place, and the historical significance of this groundbreaking piece of legislation, many are saying that the Paris Agreement has no teeth. In fact, the enforcement aspect is nonexistent.
No country that signs will be forced to actually follow through; no fines or sanctions will be enacted, and moreover, there is not a standard on which to judge country efforts. Even as explained by the UN assistant secretary-general on climate change, instead of enforcement, there will be a “name and encourage” system, which hopes to shame non-participatory nations into compliance. Some countries have already chosen to opt out of the relatively lax agreement. Greenland, for example, alleges that in order to achieve independence from Denmark, they would have to become economically self-sustaining. This would be impossible to do without raising carbon emissions through fossil fuel exploration. Whether this plan will work or not remains to be seen.ф
Cutting emissions, especially in developing countries often works against development goals. Worse is the fact that the top highest polluters, with the exception of the United States, are mostly developing countries. When the choice is between slowing growth, or adhering to nonspecific environmental efforts, many are worried that the Agreement will not actually be effective at all. But while the entire world comes together to fight the effects of climate change, a select few world leaders and influencers have outright denied its existence. Watch the video up top to find out why, despite overwhelming evidence, some people still deny climate change. You can also watch the video below to see how climate change isn’t just about the weather, but that it can also contribute to global phenomena like terrorism. Thanks for watching TestTube News, don’t forget to like and subscribe for new videos every day!