Paris Agreement officially enters force: what happens next?

In the early hours of this morning (4 November), vision turned into reality as the Paris Agreement officially came into force, ushering a new era of climate action. But what does this actually mean for the global green economy?

Since the ground-breaking deal was penned in Paris at COP 21 in December last year, global climate chiefs have remained optimistic that the treaty would come into force, with 2018 mooted as a likely timeframe.

The fact that more than 55 countries representing more than 55% of global emissions ratified the deal in early October this year was no small feat. It had taken almost two decades to put an official climate deal on the table; it took less than a year for that deal to come into force. The hunger and ambitions of the countries that have ratified – which includes the US, China and the European Union (EU) – itself reflects the pace of change.

“Humanity will look back on 4 November 2016 as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster and set off with determination towards a sustainable future,” UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said today.

“The Agreement is undoubtedly a turning point in the history of common human endeavour, capturing the combined political, economic and social will of governments, cities, regions, citizens, business and investors to overcome the existential threat of unchecked climate change. Its early entry into force is a clear political signal that all the nations of the world are devoted to decisive global action on climate change.”

For COP22

So, now that the Paris Agreement has come into force, what can we expect to see next? In the immediate aftermath of the Agreement’s ratification, it seems that not much is likely to change. The COP22 event in Marrakesh will likely focus on the implementation of the deal, with various sectors and issues such as deforestation all up for discussion.

So far, 97 of the 197 parties that signed the Agreement have ratified. Couple this with the recent United Nations report that revealed current Paris commitments are likely to place the world on track for a temperature rise of 2.9-3.4 degrees this century, it is evident that more urgency is needed.

We do know that the governing body of the Paris Agreement, the CMA, will host its first meeting on 15 November, where it is expected that negotiators will agree in adjourning further meetings – possibly until 2018 – so that officials can create rules that strengthen the implementation of the Agreement. This essentially throws a lifeline to the likes of the UK, which will still have to ratify independently as well as other EU countries. In fact, only seven EU countries representing 5% of global emissions have completed their domestic processes in ratifying.

If the CMA – which consists of nations that have ratified the deal – does agree to “suspend” negotiations, then countries that signed the Agreement will have until the mooted 2018 horizon to ratify and place them self at the table for future negotiations.

The Marrakesh talks will also aim to outline the ratchet mechanisms that allow nations to raise ambitions – ideally in line with the 1.5C pathway – over time. A practice one has been scheduled for 2018 and the first official mechanism will take place in 2023.

For the UK (and Brexit)

With UK Prime Minister Theresa May pledging to ratify the deal before the end of the year, it appears that the UK will soon be able to negotiate on these ratcheting mechanisms, as well as discussing the roadmap for rich countries to deliver $100bn in climate mitigation to developing countries. Marrakesh is expected to focus heavily on finance.

May’s Brexit ambitions were also dealt a blow by three High Court judges on Thursday (3 November), essentially slowing down the process of leaving the EU, as Article 50 can’t be triggered solely by central Government.

Much is still up in the air in regards to what Brexit means for the UK’s climate commitments. When signing the Agreement as part of the bloc, the UK agreed to binding target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. Since the signing ceremony in New York, the UK Government approved the Fifth Carbon Budget proposals by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for UK emissions to be 57% lower between the period of 2028 and 2032, compared with 1990 levels.

When Article 50 is triggered, it seems that not only will the UK be at the table for negotiations, but will also be shooting for an ambitious emissions reduction target. The nation’s ability to meet this target is another matter.

For the world

Some time at COP 22 – which runs from 7-18 November – will likely be given to embedding the recent Kigali deal to phase-out hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). The landmark – albeit somewhat questionable – aviation deal was also established outside of the Paris Agreement framework. Nations will likely question how these targets can be reached in harmony with the well below two degrees target of the Paris deal.

During the early stages of COP22, eyes will undoubtedly glance away from the Moroccan capital towards the US. On 9 November, the nation will elect either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as its next President.

Trump has made no secret of his desire to cancel the Paris Agreement, having previously claimed that climate change was a “hoax”. The US ratified the deal on a “historic day” alongside China, as the world’s largest two emitters agreed to lead the way in the low-carbon transition. The ratification of the treaty means that the US cannot leave the Paris Agreement for another four years – nations cannot signal a withdrawal process until three years into the deal and the actual removal process takes 12 months.

However, a Trump victory would cast doubt over the US’s will to meet global climate goals. The Republican candidate has already expressed his desire to ensure that coal would “last a thousand years” in his US. Fortunately, the coal is industry is realising the need to transition to a low-carbon economy.

For the energy system

Earlier today, seven major oil firms – BP, Eni, Repsol, Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total – announced a new large-scale investment fund aimed at accelerating the development and uptake of low-carbon technologies. The firms revealed a $1bn investment fund over the next ten years, that will aim to accelerate carbon capture and storage (CCS) development, while also enhancing the decarbonisation of the transport industry. 

Commenting on the fund and the ratification process the World Coal Association’s chief executive Benjamin Sporton said: “For many countries, coal will continue to play a significant role in economic development, industrialisation and urbanisation. It’s important to recognise that 19 countries have included low-emission coal technology in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which form the foundation of the Paris Agreement.

“This means that, for the Paris Agreement to be realised, we need to support these countries, most of which are developing and emerging economies, to shift their coal-fired electricity to more efficient technologies so they can meet their climate commitments.”

Matt Mace

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