The Paris climate deal reached last week has been celebrated as a remarkable achievement. But the reality is that poor countries come up short yet again.
Last Saturday, leaders from 196 countries approved an agreement after 13 days of negotiations, based on a plan to prevent temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above historical averages.
The agreement was an unfavourable outcome for poor countries contrary to one they had long bargained for. Early on, negotiators had proposed a “loss and damage” clause, one that would help poor and vulnerable nations get access to insurance and aid to help mitigate the harmful effects of climate change like rising seas and worsening storms.
According to The New York Times, poorer countries initially pushed for a legally binding provision to force rich countries set aside a minimum of $100 billion a year to help them cope with the problems climate change is sure to bring along with it.
But now with the deal written out and finally accepted, that pledge is nowhere to be found in the text of the agreement. Instead, it’s been moved to the document’s preamble-noticeably, not a section that is legally binding. In other words, the measure will likely live and die in the preamble, and never see the light of day.
The outcome is remarkably similar to one that happened in Copenhagen in 2009, at a series of climate negotiations widely considered a failure. Now, though countries have pledged billions over the past few years, the commitment has fallen short of a reliable, binding one.
“We’ve always said that it was important that the $100 billion was anchored in the agreement,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, a negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo, told the Times.
The failure to pledge money for climate adaptation isn’t the only spot where the deal falls short. Some, like climate scientist Jim Hansen, argued before the negotiations even began that the entire outcome of the deal wouldn’t be enough to stave off catastrophic climate change, because by its nature, it never sought to impose actual financial incentives to reduce emissions.
Hansen said last month that without financial penalties in the form of a carbon for countries with high greenhouse gas emissions, the deal is “unadulterated 100% pure bullshit.”
As long as fossil fuels remain the least expensive fuel source, critics argue, climate change will worsen, even if politicians insist on congratulating one another on reaching the latest agreement.