Paris commitments are good signal but economic progress needed

Wen Jiajun

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Paris commitments are good signal but economic progress needed


By Wen Jiajun    Source: Global Times    Published: 2016-9-8


China and the US formally inked their commitment to the Paris climate deal the night before the G20 Summit started in Hangzhou. The deal was first signed in December 2015 at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris and has made arrangements for greenhouse-gas emissions after 2020. The Paris climate agreement was a good start. Although there are some problems and difficulties in implementing the pact and realizing its goals, at least it has sent a signal about low-carbon development.

All the predictions about climate change made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have unfortunately come true. The globe is getting warmer and warmer year after year since the 21st century began with a growing number of extreme weather phenomena including floods.

This year is not an exception and the temperatures of many places are record-breaking. The heavy rainstorms in Wuhan, Hubei Province this summer were unprecedented. A solution is urgently needed.

Yet the Paris climate deal is only a beginning, not the end. The deal is obviously imperfect. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, a climate deal reached in 1997 which legally binds only developed countries to reach the grand emission reduction target, the Paris pact provides each nation with a specific goal on emission controls.

However, the Paris agreement set a goal of "keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels" and "to aim to limit the increase to 1.5C." However, if we put together all the emission goals, it will actually lead to a 3C to 4C rise in the planet`s temperature by the end of this century. On that score, the target made in Paris deal was far from enough. If we want to achieve more than that, more negotiations and good faith will be needed from all the countries in the world.

So far, there are indeed some thorny issues in carrying out the Paris deal. For instance, disputes between the Democrats and the Republicans have made it hard to implement the agreement in the US. Both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry said the climate issue is the major part of their political legacy and they have both made quite an effort to promote the signing of the deal. But the US` emission cutting goal is not enough. Even so, it is uncertain whether the nation can fulfill the agreement.

Washington has made a $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund and has promised to fulfill it before the 2018 deadline. So far, $500 million out of $750 million, the budget for this year alone in this regard, has been delivered, yet the Republicans have said that they will oppose it with all their might.

It is hoped that the signing of the Paris climate deal can truly promote low-carbon development in the global economy. The target is not enough, but it has at least shown that low-carbon development is an irresistible trend. Over the past years, industries that are related to traditional resources including fossil energies have been suffering from depression. But new energy resources have been growing rapidly. The development and coordination of new energy industries have already broken through their bottleneck. This is not only a problem of political will.

If we can promote it reasonably, low-carbon industries could be a major factor to drive economic growth.

The author is a visiting research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.