Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “One planet, one chance to get it right and we did it in Paris. We have made history together. It is an agreement of conviction. It is an agreement of solidarity with the most vulnerable. It is an agreement of long-term vision, for we have to turn this agreement into an engine of safe growth.”
Today, the world reacted as US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. But what really is the Paris Agreement? And should Jamaica be thinking about pulling out too?
What is the Paris Agreement?
The Paris Agreement is a United Nations treaty signed in 2016 which, for the first time, brings all nations into a common cause to work together to combat climate change and adapt to its effects. The agreement also provides extra support to assist developing countries to do so.
One of the major aims of the agreement is to keep the global temperature rise this century below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Even more, the agreement encourages countries to aim to cut temperature increase even more to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
French President Francois Hollande told the assembled delegates: “You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud to stand before your children and grandchildren.”
What are some of the provisions that Jamaica agreed to by signing the Paris Agreement?
These goals are incredibly ambitious, especially for poor and developing countries. In response, the agreement outlines appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and a capacity building framework to support the most vulnerable countries.
- The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to create mitigation efforts through “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead.
- The Agreement also requires that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.
Basically, the Paris Agreement allows countries to determine the best mitigation strategies that will achieve the overarching goal, based on the country’s specific needs and constraints, and then holds them accountable to these actions. Hence, the contributions are “nationally determined”.
What effects does the ratification of the agreement have for building Jamaica’s economy?
The Jamaican government ratified the Paris agreement in April 2017. The ratification of the agreement limits Jamaican industries which result in the production of large amounts of greenhouse gases (which directly contribute to temperature rise) or wide scale deforestation, (which contributes to CO2 level rise). These include industries such as coal and bauxite mining, quarrying, and large scale construction.
However, the agreement opens up the opportunity by providing support for the country to explore alternative energy industries, and improve climate resilience in years to come. This provision is important for developing countries like Jamaica, to build upon our existing resources to create new industries.
What are some of the steps that we will need to take to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C?
Mitigation options, such as decarbonisation, renewables, bio-energy, carbon capture and storage can all help in limiting temperature increase.
What are some of the steps that we will need to take to foster low greenhouse gas emissions development?
There are simple steps that we can all take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within our homes. For example, by recycling, one household can save up to 2400lbs of carbon dioxide annually. We can also reduce energy costs by conserving, driving less and car-pooling, using energy efficient products, using less hot water and planting trees and vegetables.
Policy makers should also be taking steps to reduce greenhouses gases, by expanding the use of renewable energy to transform our energy system by investing in efficient energy technologies, industries, and approaches. This creates a system that is cleaner and less dependent on coal and other fossil fuels. The government should also place limits on the amount of carbon dioxide and pollutants being emitted, and enact measures to reduce tropical deforestation and its associated global warming emissions.
What are some of the steps that we will need to take to increase the ability to adapt to impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience?
Alternative agricultural measures can be explored, such as borehole irrigation, rainfall and water catchment basins to enhance water storage systems, modification of livestock size and profile to improve animal production, introduction of drought resistant varieties, integrated pest management techniques. Other measures such as climate change awareness and risk management, early warning systems, and local leadership councils established to facilitate stakeholder engagement and ownership of pilot adaptation projects.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”
So is this Paris agreement a good thing or not?
For Jamaica, the Paris agreement is a great thing. We have already begun to experience damages as a result of climate change, and these will only continue to increase. It is in the best interest of everything to adhere to the provisions of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise. Also, especially for us as a developing country, the Convention of the Parties who are a part of the agreement are able to provide support towards our climate change mitigation initiatives.
“Successive generations will, I am sure, mark the 12 December 2015 as a date when cooperation, vision, responsibility, a shared humanity and a care for our world took centre stage,” she said.. “I would like to acknowledge the determination, diplomacy and effort that the Government of France have injected into this remarkable moment and the governments that have supported our shared ambition since COP 17 in Durban, South Africa,” she said.
Where can Jamaicans get more information on climate change and its effects?
- Ministry of Economic Growth & Job Creation
- Climate Change Division
- More on the Paris Agreement
- NASA Climate Change
- Coping with Climate Change in Jamaica
- Jamaica Climate Change Policy Framework