The UNFCCC at GrunnMUN 2019
The Perfect Storm: Recapturing the Spirit of Paris
At the core of the climate change issue lies the fundamental question of who bears the costs for tackling global warming. The Paris Climate Agreement attempts to solve this issue by differentiating the environmental standards between developed and developing countries. As a result, a global policy has been created where developed countries have agreed to set absolute reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while developing countries are given more leeway by being mostly encouraged to enhance their mitigation efforts with the aim of achieving economy-wide absolute reductions eventually. It is important to recognize that climate change policies have serious impacts on the world’s citizens. It is also important that a fair climate adaptation strategy takes into account the social effects that climate policies have on people. It would seem that the Paris Agreement made a start for a fair and equal burden sharing framework on an international level, as well as the inclusion of risk assessments for effects on the global poor.
However, a recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) could change our appreciation of the Paris Agreement. The report indicates that the threshold of 2 °C that was agreed upon in the Paris Agreement is inadequate to ensure the lowest impact of global warming. The scientific findings under the IPCC report indicate that a 0.5°C increase would produce far more drastic consequences on our ecosystem than was previously expected. Carbon pollution would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 and come down to zero by 2050. In addition, the report concluded that the greenhouse gas reduction pledges put forth under the Paris agreement will not be enough to avoid 2°C of global warming. Despite these warnings, global carbon emissions in 2018 were higher than the previous year for the first time since 2014. As a consequence, a more effective and ambitious response against climate change is needed. COP24 in 2018 laid the technical groundwork for these changes, but lacks ambition and far reaching solutions.
In this simulation, delegates will need to balance the urgency of adapting the Paris Agreement to the IPCC’s findings with the social features of the global economic system. Is this a too perfect storm?
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty adopted on 9 May 1992 and opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. Approaching almost universal membership, the UNFCCC treaty is of tremendous symbolic importance since it establishes a global commitment to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. Although the framework contains no enforcement mechanisms, it outlines how specific international treaties (called “protocols” or “Agreements”) may be negotiated to specify further action towards achieving the objective of the UNFCCC.
Countries have met annually from 1995 in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess their progress in dealing with climate change. A series of landmark agreements were concluded out of these annual meetings: the most important ones being the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto Protocol, concluded in 1997, was the first agreement to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008–2012. Building upon this, the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015 in order to manage emission reductions from 2020 with the long-term goal of keeping the increase in global warming to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, and making efforts to further limit the increase to 1.5 °C. The Paris agreement includes no mechanism that forces a country to set a specific target by a specific date. Instead, each country is free to determine its own contribution to mitigate global warming.
While the Paris agreement has been praised for granting autonomy to countries in determining their contribution to achieve their targets, it has recently stirred up a lot of discussion. The contentious decision by the US to withdraw from the agreement and an increase in global emissions in 2018 stresses the need to review the conditions of the Paris Agreement in order to achieve the aforementioned goals. At the same time, the release of a critical report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raises questions about whether efforts to limit global warming to 2.0 °C or even 1.5 °C will even be sufficient to prevent catastrophic climate change. COP24, taking place in Katowice, Poland from 3 to 14 December 2018, hammered out the technical details to operationalising the Paris agreement with a common agreed upon ‘’rulebook’’ on transparency, emission trading etc, but due to opposition from countries such as the US, Russia and Kuwait, did not include a strong reference to the new findings of the IPCC. It seems the conflicting interests of climate and development are coming to a head.