The United Nations working group deputized to keep the world on track to limit global warming to well below 2ºC is off to an underwhelming start, climate and energy author Anilla Cherian writes in a post on Linkedin.
With much of North America sweltering under heat warnings, searing temperatures being recorded in the Middle East, and 2016 already the hottest year known to science with half of it still ahead, fear is growing of a widening gap between promises made last December in Paris and what countries are doing to keep them.
That “significant gap” was acknowledged when the Paris agreement was signed, Cherian notes. But more recent events—Britain’s Brexit vote following its Conservative government’s turn away from support for clean energy; the full-throttle embrace of fossil fuels by one of the two major parties contending in the U.S. general election; a chain of violent security failures—have refocused public and political attention.
Earlier this month, UN climate envoy Mary Robinson accused the United Kingdom and Germany of betraying the spirit of the Paris accord by continuing to subsidize fossil fuels.
The Paris agreement created a mechanism to keep signatories from straying too far from their good intentions. The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), Cherian recalls, “is responsible for global preparations for the entry into force” of the agreement. That will occur 30 days after at least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global emissions, ratify the deal.
However, the working group’s first meeting in May started with squabbling and ended with diminished expectations, she writes. Diplomats “basically spent the entire first week disagreeing about the agenda, and the organization of work for the newly-launched APA.”
The “lack of clarity and global agreement about the APA’s scope of work and guidance on INDCs is disconcerting,” she adds. “There are demonstrable timeline gaps that pose serious monitoring and review challenges, such as the fact that the first global stock-take will only occur in 2023, and be done once every five years after.”
Cherian acknowledges that China, the U.S., and India have all indicated that they will ratify the agreement this year. If major emitters “such [as] Russia, Germany, and Japan” sign on, “the agreement could come into effect at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties in Marrakech on November 7-18, 2016.”
However, “a widening chasm between climate intention and action in the remaining months of 2016 is a sign of post-Paris doldrums,” she worries. “Demonstrable action—not just well-intentioned verbiage—will be needed to bridge the gap in the remaining months of 2016.”
In a post last week, the World Resources Institute said the Paris agreement is getting closer to the 55 countries/55% milestone, and unveiled an online tracker to help analysts track progress toward the accord’s entry into force.