Ducking the Challenge-New Climate Agreement

http://www.hagalau.net/‘To duck’ has several meanings in the dictionary. Most common is: To evade a responsibility or obligation.

After crossing the strict security and entered the venue of Paris Climate Summit, at Le Bourget, northeastern suburb of Paris, the delegates attending COP21 are ushered on a broad passage that led them to the array of halls and meeting rooms. The passage was baptized by French host as ‘ Champs Elysees’, a name of world famous avenue at the center of Paris. Like the real Champs Elysees there were unusual exhibits along the passage.

One of the NGOs, CARE International, was on that passage giving away free the small toy-ducks made from paper mache-to the delegates from more than 150 countries that have gathered here for UN Climate summit to seal the legally binding global climate deal that would make the world decarbonized by end of this century. Such de-carbonization is needed to keep the global temperature rise below 2 deg C compared to pre-industrial era.

Strikingly effective campaign on global warming awareness, CARE called it ‘ ducking the solution’. It awakens us to the new world of reality and new norm of adapting to the climate change. CARE has been supporting Bangladeshi families to start business in ducks-raring in place of poultry, simply because ducks, unlike hens, flourish in rising floodwaters around their houses to adapt to the climate change. The families thus are making more money with duck-raring than poultry. Opportunity of improving the lives by adapting to climate change!

As the Climate summit entered the second week of negotiations it is unfortunately becoming clearer that world community would have to focus more on ‘ ducking the solutions’. Keeping on playing annual performance of wordy diplomacy and harping with two-decade-old tunes of well known arguments on legally binding targets, conditions of technology transfer, finances and pointing fingers, were not helping to stop onslaught of climate change. The Obamian and Modian political speeches and even sincere discourses of Pope Francis and Dalai Lama were proving to be just momentary inspiration. Finally, at UN meeting what happened could be best described as ‘ ducking the solution’.

‘To duck’ has several meanings in the dictionary. Most common is: To evade a responsibility or obligation. Another is to move swiftly, burry the head in water, especially so as to escape being seen.

Finally the delegates did converge on the ‘ agreement’, which showed some glimpse of hopes, but many wondered if the urgency required, ambition needed and binding commitment demanded by the situation facing the humanity is at all addressed.

The fete of transforming negotiating document into final Paris Agreement of 32 pages that was adopted by all the countries with ‘unanimity’ was considered as milestone and new beginning . It is adopted by a decision which has 140 paragraphs divided in six sections each of which has further decisions which, inter alia, include mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, transparency in action and support, global stock take, facilitating implementation and compliance. Annex of the decision is called ‘ Paris Agreement’ with 29 articles.

It is not clear if these decisions legally binding to the countries who ratify the agreement. They certainly do not evoke any punitive actions who do not abide by the committed mitigation or finance targets. The urgency needed and the ambition ambition demanded by fifth assessment report of IPCC, are far from obvious in the agreement. But there is no reason to believe that Paris Agreement would not reflect the urgency and ambition in near future.

While the negotiations continued for a fortnight till late 12th Dec, impacts related to climate change are continuing all over the world with increased frequency and intensity. Many times they appear to be giving warning at the highest level.

When PM Modi was speaking about climate justice at the opening of climate summit, city of Chennai was reeling under rains and floods never seen in last 100 years. It had claimed now nearly 250 lives as against 130 lives claimed by the terrorists in Paris, the act that is being condemned by all leaders attending climate summit. When President Obama was talking about urgency of climate actions, the state of California, food bowl of USA, is entering into 5th year of sever drought, never experienced for such long period in last many years. When President Xi was speaking about China’s plans to reduce use of fossil fuels, Beijing was cast with visible curtain of dangerous and ‘red-line’ air pollution that made most of its sky invisible.

When the French Presidential gravel went down late in the night of 12th Dec 2015, I   remembered all the meanings of ‘ ‘ducking the challenges’. My Bangladeshi delegate had earlier described to me how Bangladeshis are giving-up poultry business and starting duck farms.

The families in Bangladesh have found the ways adapt to the climate change when the world leaders have ‘ducked’ the urgency and ambition. Coming from cricket-loving countries, there are hopes that some time in future the fast ball will not be ‘ducked’ but would be driven beyond the boundaries.

We all saw end of 2015 with successful Paris climate talks. But the success would depend on if the countries walk those talks in Post-2015 era. Till then the option is to duck the challenge! END

By Rajendra Shende, IIT-Alumni, Chairman TERRE Policy Centre and former Director UNEP

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