Has the Paris Climate Agreement Had Any Impact?
Jan 31 2021
Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, which brought together 196 nations from around the world and saw them pledge to implement measures to curb global warming and keep temperatures increases below 1.5°C compared to pre-Industrial Levels. But has the accord had any tangible effect in the intervening period?
On the one hand, the Paris Climate Agreement has certainly raised awareness around the issue of climate change and highlighted its seriousness to governments, corporations and individuals. But while sustainability and environmental responsibility have become buzzwords as a result, actual concrete action has not been as forthcoming as necessary in order to achieve the accord’s lofty goals.
Reasons for optimism
The biggest legacy created by the Paris Climate Agreement has been the change in global attitudes towards our planet and our responsibilities to it that the accord has engendered. Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who chaired the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change at the time the agreement was signed, deserves much credit for bringing together 196 nations in the first place.
The largest catalyst for environmental change came this year, however, when the outbreak of coronavirus carried huge implications for the planet. With industries shut down and vehicular transport at unprecedentedly low levels, carbon emissions plummeted. However, the pandemic has proven to provide nothing more than short-term respite for the environment; it will take far greater efforts in the long run to effect meaningful change.
Much room for improvement
The rapidity with which emissions rebounded after quarantine measures were relaxed around the globe demonstrates the scale of the problem facing the global community. In fact, the five years since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed have been the hottest on record, indicating that very little in the way of tangible progress has actually been forthcoming.
That’s in part due to the intransigence of certain politicians, including Donald Trump (who removed the US from the Agreement) and Jair Bolsonaro (who continues to plunder the Brazilian Amazon rainforest for financial gain). However, the rest of the world should not simply scapegoat outliers such as these, but instead look to their own shortcomings in dealing with the climate crisis.
Time for change
The drop-off in emissions experienced last year is testament to the fact that we can combat climate change – but it will require a monumental effort to do so. Fossil fuels must be replaced with renewables and other green forms of energy generation, eco-friendly technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) must be explored and, perhaps most crucially of all, we all must change our daily habits to reduce, reuse and recycle wherever possible.
One person whose voice has provided a consistent call to action throughout this period has been the Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who has continually held politicians to task for their lack of action on the issue. “Commitments are being made, distant hypothetical targets are being set, and big speeches are being given,” she said in a recent Twitter video. “Yet when it comes to the immediate action we need, we are still in a state of complete denial.”
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