On December 12, 2015 there was talk of a revolution in Paris, one that was peaceful, beautiful and long-lasting – the revolution for Climate Change. It is said that for the first time talks on climate change culminated in a successful and satisfactory note for all parties involved.
In my opinion, that the four-year negotiating round ended with strict differentiation between developed and developing nations not only proffers good will going forward but also sets us on a path that will enable us as a country deal with our climate issues in the best way possible using the tools and resources that we have now. So this is not a fight saved for a future date, we can start to make a difference now.
The Paris Agreement marks the latest step in the evolution of the UN climate change regime, which originated in 1992 with the adoption of the Framework Convention. The UNFCCC established a long-term objective, general principles, common and differentiated commitments, and a basic governance structure. In a manner of speaking, the Paris Agreement reflects a “hybrid” approach blending bottom-up flexibility, to achieve broad participation, with top-down rules, to promote accountability and ambition. The Agreement is a treaty under international law, but only certain provisions are legally binding.
The differentiation strays from the historic Kyoto Protocol approach which was more binary and less sensitive to the complexities many nations (including Kenya), find themselves in. The Paris Agreement is more nuanced. There is an allowance for flexibility that takes into account different national capabilities and circumstances. Responsibilities are doled out on this basis and consequently this is reflected in the provisions of the agreement. In essence it does have some instances in which it is explicitly stated that developed countries should take the lead in executing and applying stipulated measures.
When it comes to emission The Agreement indicates two long-term goals; Firstly, that global should start aiming for the below 2˚Celsius ceiling. This, again, was done with a recognition that it will take longer for developing countries to effect the required changes. Secondly, was that the parties set a goal to undertake rapid reductions which will result in net greenhouse gas emissions neutrality in second half of this century. In essence looks to avoid precarious environmental pollution or pollutants resulting from human activity from interfering with the climate system.
The term greenhouse gas emissions neutrality was adopted for COP21 after it emerged that previously used terms i.e. complete decarbonisation could imply a complete stop to the use of fossil fuels or Climate neutrality – which is ill-suited as it could be used to undermine efforts to reduce emissions by way of introducing geoengineering.
When it comes to the issue of countries’ individual efforts, The Agreement has set out some procedural commitments that require parties to ‘ Prepare, Communicate and Maintain’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for clarity and transparency. Any new contributions should be communicated every 5 years. This will be recognized as a progression by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and will reflect a country’s ‘highest possible ambition’.
However, The Agreement commits parties to “pursue domestic measures with the aim of achieving the objectives” of its NDC, but does not make the implementation or achievement of NDCs a binding obligation and will take effect only once enough countries have formally ratified it.
Statistics have shown that since 2001, global losses from climate change and disasters are estimated at about $2.5 trillion, with the future looking bleak in terms of the impact of this sum on GDP growth and developmental projects. So what is our climate change duty? Climate change duties” means the statutory obligations conferred on public and private entities to implement climate change actions consistent with the national goal of low carbon climate resilient development.
As a country, securing our lives and our economy is and should be a key priority in terms of our environment. This means we need systems of governance, ecosystems and societal standards that have the capability to maintain competent function in the face of harsh climatic conditions/changes.
In other words, we ought to be able to return to a modicum of normal range of function even when faced with adverse impacts of climate change. Hence this is where we start to interrogate ourselves and the extent of our knowledge on our individual and societal carbon footprint. Can we truly say that we are able to steer ourselves back to progressively achieving our vision 2030 goals should we go through a natural disaster? And if we are not confident about this answer, how fast can we begin to find the solutions?
There is a need for the country to adopt the climate change policy and bill. The Climate change bill, which has been long overdue, looks to strengthen adaptation and mitigation on the impacts of climate change related disasters in Kenya.
The Paris Agreement will be open for signature on April 22, 2016 and to be party to The Agreement, a country must express its consent to adhere formally through ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the UNFCCC. There is, therefore no better opportunity for Kenya to show leadership than this.
Ban-Ki Moon once said “The clear and present danger of climate change means we cannot burn our way into prosperity…we need a clean industrial revolution.” If we are conscious and embrace, every day, our responsibility for our own environment all else will fall into place.
The writer is the CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org