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The Paris Agreement — a gleam of light

Apr 20,2017 - Last updated at Apr 20,2017

The impact of climate change is increasingly being felt by populations the world over.

The World Bank predicts that certain cities will become unliveable, agricultural viability will decrease and pressure on already scarce water resources will escalate, potentially increasing migration and the risk of conflict.

The signing of the Paris Agreement in October 2016 was a significant step forward in strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change and the efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Paris Agreement combines top-down and bottom-up approaches, and involves both state and non-state actors.

The agreement calls on countries to keep global temperatures from rising above 2°C this century, hoping to further push for 1.5°C.

Countries are requested to set ambitious goals by putting forward nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to report on their emissions and implementation efforts.

Being the first comprehensive climate accord, the Paris Agreement was not without critics.

It calls on all countries to make ambitious commitments, yet the NDCs are not binding. There is no mechanism to force a country to set NDCs or meet them in a certain period of time.

The UN secretary general on climate change labelled the Paris agreement “a name and an encouragement plan”, nothing but an incentive.

During a workshop with the Climate Action Network Arab World, held in Lebanon last month, experts reiterated the challenges of expanding renewable energy in West Asia and North Africa (WANA). They lamented that return on investment for renewables is still considered low in certain countries.  This decreases the incentive to invest.

Moreover, the most common renewable energies are weather contingent (wind and solar) and prove challenging to store.

Achieving NDCs in WANA may be challenging, yet some progress is better than no progress at all.

This is why the Paris Agreement should not be thought of as an all-or-nothing approach, but as a progressive process towards climate change mitigation and adaption.

Countries may not reach their NDC, nor may they reach the 2°C target, but they can at least take solace in the notion that for the first time in climate change history, countries around the world have committed to take positive steps in tackling climate change before it is too late.

Within WANA, many national policies lack the requisite incentives to grow a renewable energy market.

A comprehensive campaign pushing for increased renewable energy sources to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, however, indicates a light at the end of the tunnel.

Although developing countries have the toughest choices to make in regards to financial resources and spending, the new post-2020 funding ambitions of the Green Climate Fund — a fund within the framework of the UNFCCC meant to assist developing countries — will support adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.

UNEP’s second “1 Gigatonne Coalition” report shows positive steps towards bridging the clean energy gap by engaging developing countries in energy efficiency projects.

It demonstrates that a number of internationally supported renewable energy projects in developing countries implemented between 2005 and 2015 have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 0.116 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) by 2020.

If climate funding is used appropriately and upscaled to $25 billion annually following 2015, the report predicts that the 1 GtCO2 target will be reached in 2020. 

Despite the many humanitarian and developmental challenges facing the WANA region, countries are committed to working together to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Most economies are facing changing and challenging energy needs that directly threaten future economic growth.

With the rising energy demand, the depletion of non-renewable energy resources and the negative impacts of climate change, renewable energy is a win-win scenario.

While the countries of the region may be taking small individual steps in their renewable energy portfolios, a collective effort may help us achieve our common goal.

 

 

The writer is an environmental scientist and a researcher at the WANA Institute. Her areas of expertise include climate change resilience, land degradation, sustainable energy and water diplomacy. She contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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