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.