“World Earth’s Day” on April 22nd was celebrated with demonstrations and awareness campaigns regarding environment change and disruption of ecosphere all over the world. With its 50th anniversary this year, it was themed on “Climate action” which emphasized on awareness about climate change but this day is not just remembered for this event—it has a far more historic significance regarding environment; commitment with the Mother Earth. In 2016, on this history day, leaders of the free world gathered in Paris for what would go down in history as a landmark environmental accord—The Paris Agreement.
Before official signatory ceremony, Paris hosted United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) from November 20th, 2015 to December 11th, 2015, that hammered the terms and conditions of the binding agreement with the consensus of nearly 200 countries which was adopted on December 12, 2015. “It is a binding universal agreement designed to limit greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions to levels that would prevent global temperatures from increasing more than 2 °C (3.6 °F) from preindustrial levels”, it read and was signed on by all countries on April 22nd, 2016. Furthermore it established the role of developed nations to support developing countries in the fight against climate change that challenged their economy and prosperity. “The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to put forward their best efforts through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. This includes requirements that all Parties report regularly on their emissions and on their implementation efforts.”
It was the first instance where the world gathered for global cooperation; “World that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.” said then President of the United States (POTUS) Barrack Obama.
Paris Agreement wasn’t conceived overnight— it was an accord that manifested after decades of laborious conventions and provision of a framework that would restrict environmental pollution but wouldn’t choke the emerging economies or directly confront the capitalist structure of the world.
Environmental studies and reports attributed rise in global temperature and depletion of ozone layer to increasing greenhouse gases in the air. Hence what followed was “Stockholm Convention” in 1972, which for the first time in history acknowledged global warming as a legitimate environmental concern and called for global cooperation against environment deterioration. Ministries for Environment were to be established by the countries.
In 1992, UN held a crucial convention called “United Nations Conference on Environment and Development” (UNCED) or simply, Rio Summit. It was a major stride toward environmental policy as it aimed to encourage countries to modify their energy sector predominantly to “clean and renewable energy sources” and condemned chemical wastes from industries. It set the agreement which lead to “Kyoto Protocol” in ’97 that provided, for the first time, a conclusive framework with clear targets for the world to achieve environmental sustenance, as it set mandatory limits the emission of greenhouse gases that accelerates global warming and melting of ice caps. It failed and ended in 2001 due to deficiencies in its structure. Yet it was a success since it was the first international agreement on greenhouse effect and most importantly, paved way for Paris Agreement in 2015 which was more comprehensive and based on global consensus and cooperation.
Paris Agreement, although late, came from sudden realization of environmental deterioration—forest fires, threat of sinking cities, severe tycoons, and record breaking heat waves engulfs the nations and threaten their survival. It is a long journey to achieve all targets but by now, they have realized that they must do something—not next day, next hour… now.
by: Ahsan Anwar