Paris Climate Agreement Failing Due to Toothless National Pledges

Protesters gather outside the White House in Washington on June 1, 2017, opposing President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris climate change accord. (SUSAN WALSH/AP)

(CN) – The ambitious goals set in the Paris Climate Agreement are meant to cutback global greenhouse emissions within the next decade while also exploring how nations move toward renewable forms of energy and how to pay for this new way of life.

It’s easier said than done, according to a study published Thursday that says the United Nations’ Paris Climate Agreement is inadequate and, in some instances, does not work.

That’s due in part to the nations that signed the agreement measuring under different timelines and goals. In order to clear the horizon for greenhouse gas emission reductions, nations across the globe will need to adopt a more transparent framework argues the study authors from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in Spain.

One of the main goals of the Paris Climate Agreement is to maintain global temperature rise this century below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.

Despite lofty pledges from nations like Russia, India and Pakistan to scale back their emissions by 2030, researchers say many nations fall short when their data is measured under a more transparent framework.

That’s because there are multiple commitments made in different categories from different nations, which doesn’t give a clear view of the playing field.

Four categories were evaluated as part of the study, including absolute emission reductions, which set goals for percentage terms relative to a historic base year. Some countries set their base year as 1990 while others opt for 2014. Some set their sights on an end date of 2030, while others stop at 2025.

Then there is the “business as usual” category, which is a percentage reduction if the nations do not act, and a category on a country’s emissions reduction based on GDP tied to a historic base year.

And some countries do not include an explicit greenhouse gas emission target at all.

Study researchers viewed these categories by geographic region and emission intensity per capita and normalized all the data to give a clearer picture. They found many countries will miss their greenhouse reduction goals.

“We found that authentic absolute reduction pledges had the highest ambition in terms of tangible emissions reduction,” lead author Lewis King said in a statement. “By contrast, pledges in the other three categories tend to produce low ambitions with significant emissions increases of 29%-53% at a global level.”

Based on this data, North America and the European Union are the only regions who aimed for absolute reductions in emission, while the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia should expect to see substantial increases in emissions, said King.

Taken together, the current format for pledges is all over the place, difficult to track and doesn’t give a clear picture for actual emission goals.

For example, Russia uses a base year for reductions, India measures based on GDP emissions and Pakistan uses the “business as usual” scenario.

“Society has the right to be able to clearly understand and compare climate change commitments by countries, including whether they are fair, ambitious and add up to international climate goals,” King said. “We also know that providing consistent and easily comparable information about national climate goals helps with public acceptance.”

The study is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

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