Sunday, September 4, 2016

China and the United States Ratify Paris Agreement on climate while Australia fumbles on policy



On Saturday China agreed to ratify the Paris Agreement according to the Guardian, with members of China's National People's Congress Standing Committee adopting "the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement" on Saturday morning.

China is the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter with about 24 percent of total global emissions. The USA is second on about 12 percent of global emissions.

The report comes on the eve of the G20 summit in Hangzhou China over the weekend, where China, US set to release review of each other’s fossil fuel subsidies in historic move at G20 summit according to the South China Morning Post.

The announcement comes as Xi Jinping and Barack Obama met ahead of the start of the G20 on Sunday to make a joint statement on climate change and submit their country instruments of ratification to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.




US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement highlighting that climate change cooperation has become a pillar of the bilateral relationship.

"Both nations have taken strong measures to build low-carbon, climate-resilient economies domestically and internationally – and much of that shared progress is thanks to the comprehensive cooperation and dialogue we have established." Kerry said.

"But the world is still a long way from where we need to be. To prevent the worst impacts of climate change from happening, it is essential for the Paris Agreement to enter into force as quickly as possible. Both the United States and China strongly urge others to join the Agreement as soon as they are able, in hopes of meeting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s goal of bringing it into force this year. The urgency of this challenge is clear, and it is critical that global efforts mode forward without delay."

Two other actions were raised in Kerry's statement: progress with an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons, and approving a global market-based measure for addressing carbon emissions from international aviation.

"Achieving these important actions this year will help the world reach the ambitious goals we set in Paris. And it would send a clear signal to all sectors that the global momentum to tackle climate change is only building." concluded Kerry.



“This is not a fight that any one country no matter how powerful can take alone,” Obama said of the pact. “Some day we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet.”

Xi, speaking through a translator, said he hoped the announcement would spur more countries to take action. “Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the wellbeing of mankind,” he said.

With China and the United States with 38 per cent of global emissions, 26 parties have now ratified (55 needed), with 39.06% of global emissions (55 percent needed).

WWF-China CEO LO Sze Ping said the move by China sends an encouraging signal to the world. “This clearly shows China’s determination to implement the Paris Agreement. This also shows that China is taking more of a leadership role in the global effort to prevent climate change. Now other countries must act swiftly to ratify the deal, and to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals, according to science and equity, and therefore increasing their current pledges.”

“The world finally has a global climate agreement with both the U.S. and China as formal Parties. This signals a new era in global efforts to address climate change. Both countries now need to scale and speed up their efforts in charting a future that avoids the worst impacts of climate change,” said Jennifer Morgan Executive Director of Greenpeace International.

“Presidents Xi and Obama’s joint announcement this evening sends a strong signal to the world that Paris has moved from agreement to action,” said Greenpeace's Senior Climate Policy Adviser Li Shuo.

May Boeve Executive Director of 350.org issued the following statement warning that the Paris Agereement will radically remake the energy sector. "The only way to reach the 1.5° or 2.0°C targets is by keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground." she warned. "The US-China announcement serves as another warning bell for investors to take climate risk seriously and divest from fossil fuel companies."

Boeve also warned about the gap between NDC commitments and the temperature targets enshrined in the agreement, "Let’s remember there is still a dangerous gap between what the governments are signing up to, what they are doing, and the real ambition we need to avert the worst impacts of climate change. As a movement, we will continue to push governments to go well beyond their current targets and accelerate the transition to 100 percent renewable energy.”

The Paris Agreement is likely to be ratified and come into force much quicker than any other United Nations treaty.

The United States and India have also recently completed bilateral negotiations. During the second India-U.S. Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in New Delhi on 31 August, External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India Nirmala Sitharaman co-chaired a dialogue with U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. These discussions included expanding the highly successful U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy Deployment (PACE-D) and swift ratification and implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force after 30 days, once a minimum of 55 nations have ratified the agreement with more than 55 percent of global emissions. Upon entry into force, the Agreement will become binding international law and countries that have formally joined will be subject to its provisions. Countries that have joined the Agreement can only pull out after a period of three years from the day it enters into force. After three years, a country that has joined the Agreement can choose to withdraw one year after submitting official notification of its intention.

UN agreements usually take a number of years to come into force as each country goes through their own process of ratification. If anything, the Paris Agreement is proceeding towards ratification at a much faster pace in record time with people talking about the possibility of the agreement coming into force in late 2016 perhaps in time for COP22 in Marrakech. By comparison, it took over 7 years for the Kyoto Protocol to come into force: Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997 and entered into force on 16 February 2005.

Australian Foreign Minister tables Paris Agreement in Parliament


On Wednesday 31 August Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop tabled the Paris Agreement in Federal parliament.

Bishop said in a press release "Under the Agreement, Australia will continue to set its own emission reduction targets in contribution to the international effort to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels."

Environment Minister Greg Hunt signed the agreement for Australia in New York on April 22nd, 2016.



The tabling of the Agreement in Parliament is part of Australia's treaty ratification process.

As part of the process, a National Interest Analysis has also been prepared outlining reasons for the treaty, obligations, manner of implementation, costs, and outcomes of any community consultations.

The Agreement needs to be tabled for at least 15 days prior to Australia taking binding action. During this time the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) and the Treaties Council (involving State ministers) can meet and consider the treaty, consistent with Australia's commitment to seek to ratify the Agreement in 2016.

Julie Bishop said that "The Agreement is in our national interest" and argued that our 2030 emissions reduction target of 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels is in line with other developed economies.

Yet a report out this week by Climate Transparency - Brown to Green – Assessing the G20 transition to a low-carbon economy - argues that on several criteria Australia is performing poorly or very poorly compared to other G20 nations.

This report highlights
  • Coal is the main issue with the carbon intensity of the G20’s energy sector
  • G20 member states’ pledged climate action is still far from where it needs to be to meet the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals. G20 energy-related emissions need to be reduced six times what has been pledged so far.
  • While renewable energy has increased by 18% since 2008, G20 annual country investment in power sector transition by 2035 will need to roughly double to be in line with a 2°C trajectory.
  • Fossil fuel subsidies need to be phased out. The G20 has repeatedly committed to removing these subsidies since 2009. Both major parties were strangley silent on this in the election campaign just past, even though these subsidies are estimated to be worth around $7 billion per year to the budget
  • Energy-related emissions per capita, currently averaging across the G20 at 5.7tC02e/y per person, has decreased slightly, but needs to drop right back to 1-3tC02e/y per person by 2050 to keep on a below 2˚C warming trajectory.
  • G20 economies’ energy intensity and carbon intensity are both decreasing, but not enough to compensate for the increase in economic activity.

Among the report's recommendations to the G20 nations meeting in China this weekend, is for countries to commit to base infrastructure investment consistent with keeping temperature increase "well below 2°C, pursuing efforts to keep it below 1.5°C"; ensure their repeated declaration to end fossil fuels subsidies becomes a reality to ensure those fuels reflect true environmental costs; and introduce a price on carbon, whether through a carbon tax, levy or emissions trading.

Check out this comparison table. Australia is the only country shaded brown (Poor or very poor) for all key metrics.



According to the report "Australia is one of the countries, which requested that the UNFCCC not publish the mandatory data submissions of its GHG emissions for the most recent year." That demonstrates a lack of accountability and transparency.

Our INDC emissions trajectory is incompatible with a Fair emissions reduction range in a 2C pathway.



Other countries like Mexico and China were praised for their international activities, while India and China were ranked highly for their national policy work. Canada's change of Government in 2015 has meant a change to climate policy resulting in better individual rankings in some areas while still being overall ranked inadequate. South Africa, Republic of Korea and Saudi Arabia were also ranked Inadequate, near the bottom with Australia, but had at least one positive metric.

G20 nation Emission reductions as contained in their INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement ony cover 15 percent of the reduction needed for moving to a 2°C decarbonisation pathway trajectory. To keep within a 2 ̊C trajectory, the G20 nations need to increase 2030 climate action at least six times more than the plans registered today.



Bringing the Paris Agreement rapidly into force is just the start. The real work starts in reducing emissions and ramping up Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). And the earlier we do this the better.

Climate Change Authority pragmatism on action but no new targets


Unfortunately, Australia's targets are far from sufficient for our fair share of emissions reductions.

The Climate Change Authority released their latest report this week: Towards a climate policy toolkit: Special Review of Australia’s climate goals and policies. There have been a number of resignations from the board so the Abbott/Turnbull Government has had the opportunity of appointing people sympathetic to current climate action policy and direction.

According to Michael Hopkin, Energy and Environment Editor at The Conversation, Climate Change Authority suggests emissions trading but no new climate targets. Frank Jotzo, Director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the Australian National University was far more scathing in his analysis of the Climate Change Authority report calling it a gamble on political pragmatism.

The Government has said it will review climate policy in 2017. Josh Frydenberg has played down Climate Change Authority call for tougher emissions limits, according to The Guardian.

Adam Bandt, the Greens spokesperson on climate change, called for Minister Frydenberg to heed the call of the Authority to phaseout coal in a media statement.

Bandt was also critical of the Authority report in not reconciling it's climate action recommendations with the goals of the Paris Agreement, "the Climate Change Authority has failed to recommend a level of ambition and action needed to fulfil Australia’s promise in the ‘Paris agreement’ to work towards keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.” he said. He also called attention to "the folly of Labor and the Coalition’s plan to cut $1 billion from ARENA.”

John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, said in a media statement that the report had some useful elements but neglected some key fundamentals.

"This report was required to consider the objectives of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. However, the implied emissions reduction pathway in the report would use up 90 per cent of a Paris carbon budget for Australia by 2030,” said John Connor. "The recommendations in the report neglect a key fundamental of climate science. If we emit more now, we have to emit much less later in order to keep within the overall temperature limits of 1.5-2°C that the government agreed to in Paris.”

“If implemented, these policies would mean, after 2030, that to meet Paris objectives, carbon prices would need to skyrocket, coal plants would have to be close within a matter of years, and clean energy investments would need to be scaled to well beyond practical levels.” said John Connor.

He particularly identified as problematic the laissez-faire attitude to coal phaseout and just transition for coal communities. "The policy framework the CCA has recommended leaves the transition to clean energy in the hands of an electricity market designed for the last century. This only increases the risk that coal exits will be unpredictable, disorderly and very costly to coal-dependent communities and the broader community,” Connor said.

It has been a busy few days, but what has become clearer is the Gaping chasm between Coalition's climate mantra and the real debate as Lenore Taylor wrote in The Guardian.