Monday, December 15, 2014

Developing nations agree to climate deal, but compliance is on a voluntary basis

Early Sunday morning in Lima, Peru, officials from 196 countries agreed to voluntarily reduce fossil fuel emissions that are blamed for climate change, Coral Davenport reports for The New York Times. "But the driving force behind the new deal was not the threat of sanctions or other legal consequences. It was global peer pressure. And over the coming months, it will start to become evident whether the scrutiny of the rest of the world is enough to pressure world leaders to push through new global warming laws from New Delhi to Moscow or if, as a political force, international reproach is impotent."

As part of the deal, countries pledge to enact domestic laws to reduce emissions at home by March 31, 2015, Davenport writes. But the deal "does not include legally binding requirements that countries cut their emissions by any particular amount." That means that countries can put together weak plans that do little to nothing to help the environment, or they can refuse to submit a plan at all, without fear of punishment. (Global Carbon Project graphic)
The Obama administration "has pledged that U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions will be 26 to 28 percent lower in 2025 than they were in 2005," Brad Plumer reports for Vox. Meanwhile, the European Union plans to reduce its emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and China also intends to stop its emissions from rising past 2030 or so—and plans to ramp up its share of renewable energy."

But since the reductions are voluntary, each country can choose to do whatever they want, Plumer writes. "The final Lima deal simply says that countries 'may include' detailed information on how and when they intend to cut emissions. (Or they may not.) There will be no formal assessment of each country's plans. All that will happen is that, in November 2015, the UN will tally up all the national pledges and estimate how they stack up to the broader goal of preventing more than 2°C of global warming. Otherwise, there's little monitoring or verification."

It all came down to a simple word change that softened requirements, Rebecca Leber reports for New Republic. "Now, most of the information for these plans will be voluntary, rather than mandatory, because the text says countries 'may' include detailed information, rather than 'shall.' At the core of the questions is whether the world will commit to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the centurycrucial to limiting the worst effects of global warming. Other questions, like how countries plan to increase climate change financing to $100 billion annually, will be important to reaching a Paris agreement." (Read more

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