Despite the very favourable reception given by some, Friends of the Earth International believes that the Paris Agreement fails to deliver climate justice. It is a weak agreement where rich countries do not do their fair shares of emissions cuts, or provide their fair share of finance for energy transformation and adaptation for developing countries. There are almost no hard numbers or goals within the text to ensure ambitious action on climate change. The part of the text that may have offered redress for vulnerable communities who have suffered irreparable impacts of climate change has been weakened so as to render it ineffective.
Friends of the Earth International alongside civil society organisations, trade unions, and grassroots movements agreed a set of demands in June 2015 (called ‘the People’s Test on Climate‘) as a yardstick to assess the Paris climate deal.
Friends of the Earth International judge that the Paris Agreement fails the People’s Test on Climate.
Catalyze immediate, urgent and drastic emission reductions in line with what science and equity require, deliver urgent short-term actions, building towards a long-term goal that is agreed in Paris, that shift us away from dirty energy, marking the beginning of the end of fossil fuels globally, and that keep the global temperature goal in reach.The Paris Agreement aims to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees (nowhere near a safe limit for people and planet). There is no obligation to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees – only to ‘pursue efforts’ to do so. This is extremely weak. Furthermore the text alludes only to net zero ‘climate neutrality’ by the end of the century, if we can manage it, setting no goal for peaking in emissions.
The overall agreement has nothing in the way of fair, science-based binding targets for developed countries, only a formal inclusion of countries own emissions reductions pledges (called INDCs). This combined with the fact that its provisions for finance for an energy shift in developing countries are weak (see below for detail) mean that the 2 or 1.5 degree targets are nothing more than empty words. Stating an intention to meet these goals without any substance on implementation is insufficient. Current pledges have been calculated to result in at least 2.7, and likely over 3 degrees of warming – this is clearly incompatible with climate science.
Friends of the Earth International believe that a commitment to keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees must go hand in hand with requiring rich countries to do their fair share of the effort – otherwise the burden falls unfairly on the poor. A fair shares approach based on a strict carbon budget is the fairest way to do this, and this is not in the Agreement – see ‘Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs’ for more details.The importance of Equity and ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’ (CBDR) have been weakened. The phrasing has moved from countries acting ‘in accordance with’ these principles, to their actions ‘reflecting’ them. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, rich countries have put their political capital into undermining these founding principles of the convention, further shirking their responsibilities.There are no firm pre-2020 goals for mitigation action. While there is a ‘facilitative dialogue’ to assess countries progress in 2016, there are no guarantees that this will do anything to strengthen weak pre-2020 ambition. Drastic action is required now to avoid tipping points for devastating climate impacts, and with every year of inaction the risks increase, as do the costs of tackling the climate crisis.2.
Provide adequate support for transformation – ensure that the resources needed, such as public finance and technology transfer, are provided to support the transformation, especially in vulnerable and poor countriesWith regard to finance the only legally binding obligation for developed countries is that they must report on any finance they provide. The goal of mobilising $100 bn a year from 2020 has been moved out of the Agreement to a weaker ‘COP decision’. Developed countries now only ‘intend to continue’ that level of support through 2025. A process to set a goal of a minimum of $100bn per year by 2025 will happen sometime before 2025. What this means is there is only a process in place and not concrete commitments.
Although the Paris Agreement does make it clear rich nations should provide that money, it does not guarantee the level of finance and how they are going to do so, leaving the door open not only for private finance to be involved, but also to broadening the pool of donors to developing countries. The nature and purpose of this finance isn’t clear: the words ‘new’, ‘additional’, ‘adequate’ and ‘predictable’ haven’t made it into the text, allowing crucial funding for development and fighting poverty for developing countries to be diverted to climate policies/limiting emissions. Developed countries are only tasked with ‘assisting’ developing countries to mitigate. Friends of the Earth International asserts that it should not be about ‘assistance’, it should be about rich countries doing their fair share of the global effort by providing finance to developing countries to see an energy transformation.
Deliver justice for impacted people – enhance the support to adaptation in a new climate regime, ensure that there will be a separate mechanism to provide reparations for any loss and damage that goes beyond our ability to adapt, and make a firm commitment to secure workers’ livelihoods and jobs through a Just Transition.The Paris Agreement recognizes more funding is needed for communities to adapt to climate change over the next five years but does not include any concrete steps or numbers to help make this happen.
The important issue of ‘Loss and Damage’ is anchored in the agreement however the wording specifically excludes compensation and liability. This will be a high price for vulnerable countries to pay and is a step backwards for loss and damage.
There is no concrete structure in place for climate refugees, and no finance on the table to address irreparable damage. Without this, the most vulnerable countries will be left to pick up the pieces. The US pushed this text on small island countries, supported by the Umbrella group and the EU.‘Just transition’ for workers is now only mentioned in the preamble to the Agreement, not the body of the text, meaning that again it is simply words rather than a binding commitment.
Focus on transformational action – ensure that renewable and efficient solutions are emphasized rather than false solutions that fail to produce the results and protection we need, such as carbon markets in land and soil, dangerous geoengineering interventions, and more.Astoundingly, there is no mention of renewables or energy efficiency in the Paris Agreement at all. And nothing that states that fossil fuels should be phased out.
The long term goal of climate or carbon neutrality by 2100 in practise means that if geo-engineering and other harmful market-based or unproven tech solutions are in place, emissions can continue even after that date. There is no exclusion of these options.
101 of 116 models reviewed by the IPCC to attain 430-480 PPM stabilization rely on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), so the Paris agreement raises the spectre of a massive expansion of these risky and potentially dangerous technologies, if indeed they are even developed.We need massive short term emissions reductions driven by a global energy revolution not weak long term goals built on the promise of technologies that are currently non-existent and which if developed are likely to be highly damaging. This is a lose-lose proposition.
And the door is open for markets to exploit the climate crisis, without any limitations specifically in the text. This is a get-out-of jail free card for the biggest historical polluters. In the case of REDD+ it will lead to developed countries supporting damaging plantation projects in developing countries instead of reducing their fossil fuel emissions at home.
Conclusions in our Assessment of the Paris Agreement
Overall the Paris Agreement fails the People’s Test on all counts. It not only has weak overall goals, but it lacks the specific concrete obligations to deliver on emissions reductions, finance for transformation and justice for affected peoples. It does not rule out false solutions. Friends of the Earth International believes this deal is a bad one for climate justice.