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A Green Dream
No, the UN Can’t Enforce the Paris Climate Deal

The world is on track to ratify the UN climate deal drawn up in Paris by the end of the year, but don’t be fooled into thinking this to be some great green triumph. The agreement goes into effect once 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions sign it, and with 62 countries accounting for 52 percent of emissions, we’re quickly closing down on that goal. But thanks to the deal’s complete lack of anything close to resembling an enforcement mechanism, countries likely won’t notice many differences once this ratification process is complete. They’ll have to submit plans for reducing emissions (called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs) and update these plans every five years, but as Reuters reports, there won’t be anything holding them to the targets they set:

The 2015 Paris Agreement, outlining a shift from fossil fuels this century, says efforts to oversee compliance will be “non-adversarial and non-punitive”, raising questions about how to ensure governments pull their weight. […]

“The key question will be implementing the agreement. There’s no legal enforcement of pledges,” said Robert Watson, a British-American scientist and former head of the U.N.’s panel of climate experts. The hope is governments will feel a “moral obligation” and “peer pressure” to act, he told Reuters.

Hope is, as they say, a four letter word, and it’s a silly thing to rely on in an international treaty. But after delegates watered down the deal in Paris last December to at least walk away with something, hope is just about all that’s left for the global climate treaty movement.

Naming and shaming might work to help nudge certain countries in the right direction, but those aren’t tools to induce the serious sorts of changes most environmentalists believe civilization needs to make to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate. This process was doomed from the start, and just because this agreement is getting “ratified” doesn’t make it any less of a failure. We may need meaningful green change, but that isn’t going to come from an UN treaty.

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  • Arkeygeezer

    “…those aren’t tools to induce the serious sorts of changes most
    environmentalists believe civilization needs to make to mitigate and
    adapt to our changing climate”

    Civilization does not appear to agree with them.

    • Andrew Allison

      At least it’s encouraging to see TAI using the term “mitigate and adapt to” rather than the nonsensical stop climate change.

  • Blackbeard

    It more than that is no enforcement mechanism, there isn’t even a monitoring mechanism. For example, China has made it abundantly clear that there will be no UN monitoring of emissions within China. China will self-monitor and self-report, if they bother to report at all. If they declare that they have met all their obligations who will challenge them?

  • jim

    Well, yeah, but a Mr.or Mrs. “Pen and Phone” in the White House can implement as much of it as the courts will tolerate. Which is just about all of it. And with the enthusiastic support of the media.

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