The Paris Agreement

There is an obvious overabundance of commentary on the agreement, but a profound lack of commentary by those who have read the agreement and its incorporated documents.

Let’s start by agreeing that the world is getting warmer and that this is a critical problem. Further, let’s agree that some of man’s activities are contributing to this problem.

Is the Paris Agreement the best way to mitigate this problem? We have read the document and the underlying incorporated documents and will put forth its major points so you can decide.

Before we get into the process, we should explain that The Paris Agreement is a treaty that has not been ratified by the US. Treaty ratification is important and difficult, because it carries the force of law in the US. Unlike almost all other countries, we have an independent judiciary, and a court system, which if asked, can ensure compliance by the US government to any treaty it ratifies.  This is the reason it takes a two-thirds majority of the Senate to confirm any treaty. The founders required this to force bi-partisan acceptance before committing the US to foreign countries.

It is also important to recognize that the US produces 25% of the world’s GDP and only 14.7% to 17.6% of the world’s carbon emissions (depending on the political bent of the surveying institution).

The Paris Agreement is a treaty that has a specific direction, climate stabilization, however it has few specific terms. Instead, it sets up a system of global “environmental governance.” It is more of a constitution to set up a “global governance” for global environmental issues, which include world temperature stabilization, gender equality, resource sustainability and the establishment and approval of sustainable occupations for all citizens.

The Paris Agreement was formed under the United Nations, but does not incorporate the UN into its governance, thus avoiding the veto powers carried by five members of the Security Council.

The process all began in 1992, when the United Nations formed the “Framework Convention on Climate Change” (the UNFCCC or FCCC”). This is not a convention in the sense of a political convention, it is more like an agency with a secretariat and various permanent committees and subsidiary organizations, several of which were incorporated into the Paris Agreement. Each of the 22 times the FCCC met, certain decisions were made, many of which are incorporated by reference into the Paris Agreement, primarily through 1/CP.21, which is a list of proposals, suggestions and rules running 48 pages.

The number of Conventions created by the FCCC and incorporated into the Paris Agreement are so numerous, it would take pages to list them. If you are interested, go to: www.unfccc.int/document_lists/items/2960.php

While the FCCC was formed ultimately to produce the Paris Agreement, many of its functioning subsidiaries will continue under the Paris Agreement, and the UNFCCC will exist in perpetuity. The FCCC meets roughly once a year as a full body. In the interim, it has a Board of Directors, officers and about 200 staff members. A brief accounting of the larger subsidiaries are:

  • The Green Climate Fund
  • The Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts
  • The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action
  • The Standing Committee on Finance
  • The Least Developed Countries Expert Group
  • The Kyoto Protocol (1 & 2)
  • The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol
  • The Clean Development Mechanism
  • The Cancun Agreement
  • The Global Environmental Facility
  • The Least Developed Countries Fund
  • Special Climate Change Fund
  • Climate Technology Center and Network

Bear in mind, each of these entities have a budget and permanent personnel. Also, generally speaking, the USA is expected to fund 25% of their operations in addition to the pledged contributions. Note, in the Paris Agreement, the annual contributions to the Green Climate Fund alone are specified ($100 billion) and not voluntary under US law if the Paris Agreement is ratified by the Senate and signed by the President.

Let’s get on to the Paris Agreement. The major structure of the agreement is as follows:

  1. The Convention of Parties (“COP”). This is a congress of sorts, similar in concept to the United Nations
    1. The Secretariat of the COP. Essentially, this is the day-to-day executive body.
    2. The Ad Hoc Working Group for the Paris Agreement. This all-encompassing agency is charged with making sure each country and each subsidiary entity does its job and that the proper amount of “sustainable and predictable” funding is obtained. While there are no punitive powers in the entire agreement at this point, this committee is the policing force of the agreement.
    3. The Financial Mechanism. This agency is responsible for collecting and administering the “nationally determined contributions.” Note: These contributions seem to be voluntary, but under the Paris Agreement the Ad Hoc Working Group is to provide guidance as to the amounts, which are mandatory for the US under the US law mentioned earlier.
    4. The Body for Implementation. This agency is responsible for recording the nationally determined contributions and publicly reporting them.
    5. The Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (“The Technology Mechanism”). This agency is charged with determining the best environmental strategies for the entire world to follow. And, along with the Body for Implementation, promoting these decisions. These decisions also become the basis for all funding which flows through the Financial Mechanism and the various funds under the FCCC and Paris Agreement.
    6. The Technology Center and Network. This agency operates under the Technology Mechanism and is charged with 1) collecting all of the environmental technology, which is required to be turned over to it by all parties to the agreement, and 2) sponsoring research and making recommendations to the Technology Mechanism. Note, there is no protection for private intellectual property under the Paris Agreement – according to the Paris Agreement it all becomes public domain.
    7. The Paris Committee on Capacity Building. This agency will assess the needs of developing countries and provide guidance to the Financial Mechanism as to which countries receive funds and how much for environmental remediation.
    8. The Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency. This is an agency to make sure every country tells the truth.
    9. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change … self-descriptive.

We will go into some of the ways that these entities may function, but first we wish to highlight other non-climate related terms of the agreement. We site below without judgement or prejudice:

Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,

While many of us agree with some or all of these mandates, we should reflect on how much compliance is possible in the rest of the countries, which do not have the same Rule of Law and judicial system that we have in the US.

Some commentators have deciphered that the developed world must contribute $100 billion annually (est. $25 billion from the US) to fund the environmental remediation in the developing world by 2020, but that is only part of the mandate. Article 9, paragraph 1:

Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.

At this point, there are no hard numbers behind what the Ad Hoc Working Committee or the secretariat of the COP will target. Note: the secretariat is to be comprised of 10 people, two from each of five regions of the world, who together represent all racial, economic, political and religious groups.

It is also worthy to note that the terms of the Paris Agreement are not to be limited to the national level. All levels of government are to be enjoined mutatis mutandis (in like manner) to the terms of the Treaty. Article 7, paragraph 2.

Parties recognize that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all with local, subnational, national, regional and international dimensions, and that it is a key component of and makes a contribution to the long-term global response to climate change to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems, taking into account the urgent and immediate needs of those developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

We think that it is worthwhile listing the “developed countries.” From Annex 1 of the 1/CP.21

Australia       Belarus       Canada       European Union       Iceland

Japan       Liechtenstein       Monaco       New Zealand       Norway

Russia       Switzerland       Turkey       United States       Ukraine

One notices the absence of China and India, Brazil and Taiwan. Each country has the right to determine if they are developed or not. Those undeveloped countries have until 2025 to initiate their compliance, however, they may receive funds from the Financial Mechanism as soon as funds are available. This means that China and India will receive funding as well as Syria, Mexico, Columbia, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Angola, South Africa, etc. will qualify for funding.

What kind of projects will be funded? There is a prohibition on any funding for fossil fuel projects, all energy production must be renewable and all mitigation and development sustainable. A partial list is available of approved projects at: http://unfccc.int/cooperation_and_support/financial_mechanism/adaptation_fund/items/6668.php

Who will get the money to accomplish these projects? For the most part, it will go to the governments of the undeveloped countries with the promise that they will apply the funds to the approved projects. There is no mechanism to force compliance or punish non-compliance. Some funds will migrate through various national and regional entities called Accredited Implementing Entities formed for the specific purpose of applying the financing to the project or government in some cases.

The UNFCCC has been around since 1992. What is the track record?

The UNFCC formed the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) under the Kyoto Protocol in 2007. The CDM website lists the projects proposed (7771), accepted (2) and completed (0).  See the UNFCCC link to verify.

https://cdm.unfccc.int/Projects/index.html

The CDM is yet another entity formed under a prior UNFCCC accord that now falls under the Paris Agreement.

We have done our best to untangle the many subsidiary organisms under the Paris Agreement and explain how they are proposed to work. We have no doubt made some misjudgments, but they have not been made in an attempt to influence anyone.

The question to the reader remains, “Is the Paris Agreement the best way to improve our climate?”

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