UPSC CSE – SYLLABUS: GENERAL STUDIES-3– Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
US and Paris Agreement
- The United States formally left the Paris Climate Agreement, three years after President Donald Trump announced his intention to undo what had been seen as a key achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama.
- The same day, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, who has expressed confidence about winning the 2020 election, announced that his administration (if elected), would re-join the landmark accord.
In December 2015, 195 countries signed an agreement to slow the process of global warming by making efforts to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.
- This basically means that the countries would try to limit the increase in global temperature rise.
- While poor countries and island states had requested a lower goal considering threats of droughts and sea-level rise, climate experts have said maintaining a 2 degrees increase will be a challenge in itself. The agreement came into force on November 4, 2016.
- Another crucial point in this agreement was the decision to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activities to a level that can be naturally absorbed by trees, soils and oceans.
- Nations have pledged “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”.
- This meant attaining “net zero emissions” between 2050 and 2100.
- According to the UN’s climate science panel, net zero emissions must be attained by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.
- Developed countries were also told to provide financial resources to help developing countries in dealing with climate change and for adaptation measures.
- As part of a review mechanism, developed countries were also asked to communicate every two years the “indicative” amount of money they would be able to raise over the next two years, and information on how much of it would come from public financial sources.
- In contrast, developing countries have only been “encouraged” to provide such information every two years on a voluntary basis.
- A key feature of the Paris Agreement has been the way the agreement reflects the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR), which has been invoked four times in the CBDR principle.
- Emerging nations stressed on the developed world to take greater responsibility for climate actions since they are largely responsible for emitting almost all of the greenhouse gases from about 1850 to the 1980s.
- The agreement also includes a mechanism to address financial losses faced by less developed nations due to climate change impacts like droughts, floods etc.
- However, developed nations won’t face financial claims since it “does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation”.
US leaving the agreement:
- During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had described the Paris Agreement as “unfair” to US interests, and had promised to pull out of the agreement if elected.
- Trump had also sought to portray that election as a referendum on the policies of former President Obama, who had played a pivotal role in stitching together the complex and far-reaching agreement.
- The US could not immediately exit the Paris Agreement; however, as United Nations rules permitted a country to apply for leaving three years after the accord came into force, i.e. November 4, 2019.
- The US formally applied to leave on that day, and the departure automatically came into effect on November 4, 2020, at the end of a mandatory year-long waiting period.
Joe Biden re-join the Paris accord:
- Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has long maintained that the US should commit to policies addressing climate change, and during his campaign proposed a $2 trillion spending plan that includes promoting clean energy and climate-friendly infrastructure.
- Biden on Wednesday announced that upon election, his administration would rejoin the Paris treaty on its first day in office– January 20, 2021.
- To do so, the US would have to formally inform the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the body which created the Paris accord, about its intention to re-join.
- Thirty days after formally applying to the UNFCCC, the US would again become a part of the Paris framework, and would be required to submit its emission-reduction targets for 2030.
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