jeudi 14 janvier 2016

COP21 in Paris: Are promises better than nothing?

Prudence Dato,, IREGE/University of Savoie (France)

Before submitting to the assembly for final agreement, the President of COP21, Laurent Fabius declared with emotion that the compromise text is “fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding”. However, it seems to be very difficult to find how it is legally binding by reading the final agreement.[1] But there are nice promises. The agreement that was unanimously voted confirms the goal of maintaining the increase in average temperature to 2°C below the pre-industrial average (the 1850-1900 reference period) and intends to pursue efforts to limit this increase to 1.5°C. This limit of 1.5 °C would require negative emissions that suppose a quick transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency; and the adoption of biofuels combined with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mitigation pathways. While the group of developing countries, which include most vulnerable countries and also both less and more polluting countries like China and India supports this target, its requirements are less favorable to them. For instance, biofuels are competitive with food production[2] and may reduce their possibilities to reduce poverty[3], while developing countries are most affected by both climate change and poverty.  Also, up to now the CCS technologies are too costly[4] and renewable energy is not affordable in developing countries[5]. This would not be possible unless there is a transfer of technologies and financial aids.

 These issues of transfer of technologies and financial aids were also important parts of the COP21 agreement. Fund of $100 billion a year was promised by developed countries to support climate policies in developing countries such as conservation and sustainable management of forests and promotion of renewable energy through new aids or greening existing ones[6]. Additionally, there were side commitments from some countries like France and US.  For instance, France has decided to cut subsidies for overseas coal-fired power stations without a CCS and has promised €2 billion by 2020 to African countries. Also by the year 2020, the United States has promised to double its funding from $430 million in 2014, for poor countries to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. But all this is only promises…In addition, developing countries may be careful of the euphoria of green that may redirect aids to green projects which may not socially efficient instead of investing in development projects such as infrastructures, education, health, etc. Overall, nothing will happen if developed countries do not fulfill their promises…and why would they? Even worse: even if developing countries really receive the $100 billion, will they have any incentive to reduce their GHG emissions? No sign of that in China or Hong Kong.


[2] For more details, see Condon, Nicole, Heather Klemick, and Ann Wolverton. "Impacts of ethanol policy on corn prices: A review and meta-analysis of recent evidence." Food Policy 51 (2015): 63-73.
[5] Martinot, Eric, Akanksha Chaurey, Debra Lew, José Roberto Moreira, and Njeri Wamukonya. "Renewable energy markets in developing countries*."Annual Review of Energy and the Environment 27, no. 1 (2002): 309-348.