Perhaps the most anticipated event of the year came to a close this past weekend in Paris resulting in a much awaited unprecedented world climate change agreement. The Western mainstream media such as those in the United States did not cover the most critical aspects of the debate despite wide coverage during the opening day of the Summit. Most presented the warming limit for the world that all nations sought to achieve as a ‘simple choice’ between 2 degrees C or 1.5 degrees C for the international community but left out the enormous costs that a majority of the poor developing countries would face as a result of this ‘choice’.
The COP21 Final Climate Change Agreement Full Text has Article 2(1a) as its major highlight and it reads "Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 20C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5c above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change". Still, this is inadequate especially to the majority of poor developing countries.
Major contentious points in the COP21 Paris Agreement
It gives no clear protection to the rights of groups/regions vulnerable to climate change as it presented a position of shared responsibility by failing to explicitly reflect the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC). Clearly, the Paris agreement has moved away from the rigid differentiation between Annex I and non-Annex I countries found in the Kyoto Protocol, towards a more bottom-up global approach of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to be reviewed every five years.
It also didn’t spell out modalities of contribution by developed countries towards the long-promised USD 100 billion Green Climate Fund for developing countries affected by climate change starting in 2020. This gets interesting as increasingly affluent countries such as China continuing to stick to the developing country status position during the negotiations for the past 20 years even though at COP 21 President Xi Jinping promised to contribute more than USD 3 billion in climate aid to the cause.
Perhaps most importantly, whereas it is the first globally acceptable climate deal, it is not a legally binding climate deal since it guarantees nothing to the vulnerable countries.
Nevertheless, COP 21 was a great improvement on previous COP sessions as it now shows commitment by almost all countries of the world in tackling climate change. Ultimately, while COP21 in Paris took a step in the right direction, only the concrete actions governments will take over the coming weeks, months and years ahead will help shape our common future.
Eric Mwangi Njoroge blogs for the Network of African Youths for Development (NAYD) on matters concerning climate change. He is currently an Adaptation Policy Fellow during the ongoing Phase III of the African Climate Change Fellowship Program (ACCFP) jointly administered by the Institute of Resource Assessment (IRA-UDSM) of the University of Dar es Salaam and START International, Inc. (START). Eric tweets on development and climate change here @erictwese.