Curiosity takes me to Earth Day 2016
Happy Earth Day 2016. This year is more significant than others perhaps with the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement – the biggest signing of an agreement in history according to the UN.
I read a good summary of the key elements of the Paris agreement in an article in The Independent:
TEMPERATURE GOAL: The objective of the agreement is to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial times. At that level, scientists believe the worst effects of climate change can be avoided. The agreement also includes an aspirational goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). Temperatures have already risen by almost 1 degree C (1.8 degrees F) since the industrial revolution.
INDIVIDUAL TARGETS: Countries are required to set national targets for reducing or reining in their greenhouse gas emissions. Those targets aren’t legally binding, but countries must report on their progress and update their targets every five years. The first cycle begins in 2020. Only developed countries are expected to slash their emissions in absolute terms. Developing nations are “encouraged” to do so as their capabilities evolve over time.
TRANSPARENCY: There is no penalty if countries miss their emissions targets. Instead, the agreement relies on transparency rules to motivate countries to fulfill their pledges. All countries must report on their efforts to reduce their emissions. But some “flexibility” is allowed for developing countries that need it, which was a key demand from China.
MONEY: The agreement says wealthy countries should continue to offer financial support to help poor countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change. It also encourages other countries to pitch in on a voluntary basis. That paves the way for emerging economies such as China to contribute, even though it doesn’t require them to do so. Actual dollar amounts were kept out of the agreement itself, but wealthy nations had previously pledged to provide $100 billion annually in climate finance by 2020.
LOSS AND DAMAGE: In a victory for small island nations threatened by rising seas, the agreement includes a section recognizing “loss and damage” associated with climate-related disasters. The U.S. long objected to addressing the issue in the agreement, worried that it would lead to claims of compensation for damage caused by extreme weather events. In the end, the issue was included, but a footnote specifically stated that loss and damage does not involve liability or compensation.
WITHDRAWAL: The agreement will enter into force 30 days after 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have completed the ratification process. It’s possible to withdraw from the treaty, but not in the first three years after it enters into force. There’s also a one-year notice period, so the earliest a country could drop out is four years after the agreement has come into effect.
I can’t help but be a bit cynical, given what has happened in the past. There is a lot of positive momentum which we haven’t seen, but the economics of moving away from fossil fuels may not support that momentum in the long run. I hope I am wrong.
What concerns me is water, or lack thereof, in many parts of the world, including Alberta. The warm and dry winter and spring (thanks in part to a strong El Niño ) means fire bans are in place in many parts of the province, and has me wondering if we are going to have another summer of forest fires and difficulty breathing. I would not want to be a farmer right now.
In the meantime, I am going to try to get more educated about water in Canada, continue to get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and hope that the Elbow River runs high with spring run off.
And I might just break down and buy some pansies at Superstore!