Paris Agreement & Climate Change: The progress, the challenges, and the solutions

By Ndubuisi Micheal Obineme

Over 3 years after the signing of the Paris Agreement that involved 196 states plus the European Union, industry experts have underscored the need to increase adaptation support for parties most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. The Paris Agreement which is dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, has made some significant progress since 2016. World Leaders is seeking an urgent solution to tackle the Climate Change issues as they are looking forward to resolving lingering issues related to the Paris Agreement and build momentum toward more aggressive measures.

This article is a review of some of the progress, challenges, and solutions that have been seen following the mounting pressure to reduce heat-trapping gas emissions and slow the global rise in temperatures.

In Africa, 51 of the 54 African countries have already ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement signed at the landmark COP21 in Paris. The NDCs are specific climate change targets that each country must set. Recently, Africa Development Bank has unveiled ambitious plans to scrap coal power stations across the continent and switch to renewable energy. President of AFDB, Akinwumi announced it at the United Nations climate talks in 2019, noting that efforts are been made to shutter coal-fired power plants and build the “largest solar zone in the world” in the entire Sahel region. AFDB will be investing $20 billion in solar and clean energy that would provide the region’s 250 million people with 10,000MW of electricity.

“Coal is the past, and renewable energy is the future. For us at the African Development Bank, we’re getting out of coal. There’s a reason God gave Africa sunlight.

“The African Development Bank stands ready as ever to assist its regional member countries to build resilience against climate,” Akinwumi said.

The Bank also has a $500 million green baseload scheme which will be rolled out in 2020 and is set to yield $5 billion of investment that will help African countries transition from coal and fossil fuel to renewable energy.

In the Middle East, the UAE is committed to protecting and managing the rich biodiversity of the state and prevent the extinction of threatened species. The creation of natural reserves intends to improve the environment and protect wildlife in the country, in addition to the promotion of eco-tourism.

Abu Dhabi is one of the many coastal cities vulnerable to the effects of climate change threatened by rising sea levels. But, Abu Dhabi has a secret weapon, which is Trees, and lots of them. The Mangrove National Park covers more than 7 square miles of forest. The Mangroves act as “green lungs” trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into their root systems.

According to the report, One hectare of Mangrove forest can store about 3,754 tons of carbon as well as acting as a defense force, its a perfect habitat for an array of wildlife and home to hundreds of birds and marine species. Visitors can move through the Mangroves while having minimal impact on the surrounding area. In 2020 a brand-new boardwalk will open, helping visitors to explore the mangroves further

In Europe, Germany is at the forefront of making climate change a top priority in its Energy Transition program known as “Energiewende” which is guiding the process of overhauling Germany’s energy supply towards renewables and better energy efficiency.

In the year 2000, the Federal Government agreed with the German energy companies on an exit from nuclear power by 2022. As such, the resolutions the Federal Government passed in 2011 are in-line with restructuring the energy sources of the country. By 2050, the German government targets at least a minimum of 80 percent of electricity and 60 percent of all energy in Germany will come from renewable energies.

In this regard, Germany has begun to shut down all nuclear power stations with a target of 40 to 45 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources. Since mid-2015 there have only been eight nuclear power stations still in operation, providing around 15 percent of the country’s energy mix. But, the Federal Government of Germany is moving ahead with the sustainable restructuring of the energy systems, which began as long ago in 2000 with the first resolution on an exit of nuclear power and the promotion of the Renewable Energy Sources Act.

In Germany, the promotion of renewable energies began back in the 1990s and in the year 2000 was made into law. Germany is not only increasing the share of green energy in its supply. It is also using energy more economically. According to the report, energy consumption has been cut significantly in recent years in Germany – by 7.6 percent in 2008 and 2015.

Dr. Stefan Traumann said: “We have already achieved quite a lot, with almost one-third of our electricity coming from wind, solar, biomass and hydropower. Renewable energy is a very important component of our electricity supply.”

Meanwhile, The European Commission (EC) has launched an ambitious roadmap termed the Green Deal that aims to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. It also seeks to design a set of “deeply transformative policies” at regional and national level across eight key areas: increased climate ambition for 2030 and 2050; clean, affordable and secure energy; a clean and circular economy; energy and resource-efficient buildings; sustainable and smart mobility; a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly “farm to fork” food system; preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity; and zero pollution for a toxic-free environment.

The roadmap also forms part of the EU’s long-term strategy to be presented to the UNFCCC in 2020. A cornerstone of the new Strategy will be the adoption of the first European ‘Climate Law’ by March 2020. In addition to introducing more ambitious emissions targets, the plan seeks to drive policy reforms to make Europe the frontrunner in climate-friendly industries, green technologies, and green financing.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen described the Green Deal as Europe’s “man on the moon moment,” noting that it provides an overarching vision as well as 50 concrete actions for a new growth strategy that “gives more back than it takes away.”

Von der Leyen pointed out that the Commission aims to mobilize EUR100 billion in funding for a proposed “Just Transition Mechanism” targeted at the most vulnerable regions and sectors.

An estimated additional EUR 260 billion, or about 1.5% of the EU’s GDP in 2018, is required for the 2030 climate and energy targets alone. The Green Deal roadmap includes proposals for generating more financing, including developing a Sustainable Europe Investment Plan to integrate the mobilization of green financing with an improved enabling framework conducive to green investment; introducing a 25% target for climate mainstreaming across all EU programs and doubling the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) climate target from 25% to 50% by 2025.

As the EU increases its climate ambition,” the Green Deal envisions “a carbon border adjustment mechanism” to reduce the risk of carbon leakage for selected sectors.

However, a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that scaling-up renewable energy combined with electrification could deliver more than three-quarters of the energy-related emission reductions needed to meet global climate goals.

According to IRENA’s Global Energy Transformation report: A Roadmap to 2050, it highlighted the pathways to meet 86 percent of global power demand with renewable energy exist. Electricity would cover half of the global final energy mix. Global power supply would more than double over this period, with the bulk of it generated from renewable energy, mostly solar PV and wind.

In the report, IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera said that renewable energy is the most effective and readily-available solution for reversing the trend of rising CO2 emissions. A combination of renewable energy with deeper electrification can achieve 75 percent of the energy-related emission reduction needed. An accelerated energy transition in line with the Roadmap 2050 would also save the global economy up to USD 160 trillion cumulatively over the next 30 years in avoided health costs, energy subsidies and climate damages. Every dollar spent on energy transition would pay off up to seven times. The global economy would grow by 2.5 percent in 2050. However, climate damages can lead to significant socioeconomic losses.

According to him, the shift towards renewables makes economic sense and by mid-century, the global economy would be larger, and jobs created in the energy sector would boost global employment by 0.2 percent. Policies to promote a just, fair and inclusive transition could maximize the benefits for different countries, regions, and communities. This would also accelerate the achievement of affordable and universal energy access. The global energy transformation goes beyond a transformation of the energy sector. It is a transformation of economies and societies.

But action is lagging, the report warns. While energy-related CO2 emissions continued to grow by over 1 percent annually on average in the last five years, emissions would need to decline by 70 percent below their current level by 2050 to meet global climate goals. This calls for a significant increase in national ambition and more aggressive renewable energy and climate targets.

IRENA’s roadmap recommends that national policy should focus on zero-carbon long-term strategies. It also highlights the need to boost and harness systemic innovation.

This includes fostering smarter energy systems through digitalization as well as the coupling of end-use sectors, particularly heating and cooling and transport, via greater electrification, promoting decentralization and designing flexible power grids. Speed and forward-looking leadership will be critical – the world in 2050 depends on the energy decisions taken today, according to the report.

Some industry experts emphasize that power sector decarbonization alone will not suffice to meet Paris Agreement objectives. But, a profound transformation through the adoption of renewables and energy efficiency measures, as well as increased electrification of end uses is key to achieve the Paris Agreement targets.

More so, The UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the review of national climate pledges under the Paris Agreement are milestones for raising the level of ambition. Urgent action on the ground at all levels is vital, in particular unlocking the investments needed to further strengthen the momentum of this energy transformation.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “We need to link climate change to a new model of development – fair globalization – with less suffering, more justice, and harmony between people and the planet.”

UN Secretary-General has published a report focused on Ten Priority Areas to Achieve the Paris Agreement. It features inter alia, multi-stakeholder initiatives, including proposals by small island developing States (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs), and individual pledges and commitments from national governments, sub-national actors, the private sector and international organizations.

In his report, Guterres says he will ensure climate change remains a priority on the international agenda. And, he will do so by convening high-level platforms for countries to present more ambitious plans; pushing financial actors to accelerate the transition from the grey to the green economy; facilitating multi-stakeholder dialogues, and coordinated UN system engagement.

Furthermore, the report elaborates on ten priority areas for 2020, namely:

•        Securing more ambitious commitments from major emitters, to reduce emissions by at least 45% by 2030 in line with achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and the SDGs;

•        Ensuring all countries come forward with 2050 carbon neutrality commitments; increasing ambition in sectors not fully considered in the past, including nature-based solutions;

•        Addressing the social dimension of climate change by ensuring NDCs include a just transition;

•        Curtailing current coal capacity and ensuring no new coal power plants are built after 2020;

•        Accelerating the transition to 100% renewable energy;

•        Accelerating the shift of financial flows, taxing pollution not people, and ensuring access to sustainable finance;

•        Stepping-up support for people affected by climate change and transitioning toward a resilient future;

•        Delivering on commitments made at the Summit to SIDS and LDCs, and implementing initiatives aimed at decarbonization of key economic sectors.

At the twenty-fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid, 70 countries made commitments, during the Summit, to deliver more ambitious NDCs in 2020, they account for less than 10% of global emissions, with no major emitters formally committing to ramp up ambition.

While many countries committed to more ambitious NDCs, the world’s major emitters are yet to step up their ambition with concrete commitments. These main emitters are the 20 countries responsible for approximately 80% of global GHG emissions. G20 countries together need to cut their GHG emissions by at least 45% in 2030 (below 2010 levels) and reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 at the latest to be in line with the IPCC 1.50C report. According to recent reports, none of the G20 countries are in line with limiting warming to 1.50C. About half of the G20 countries are however projected to meet or overachieve their NDCs, which suggests plenty of room for increasing ambition in the 2020 NDC update.

Moreover, developed G20 countries have to reduce their emissions relatively more compared to the rest of the world. Countries like China accounts for 27% of global GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF). China is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its actions both at home and abroad have an enormous impact on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

With its current policies, China is on track to overachieve its 2030 NDC targets based on its current policies. If one were to recalculate its NDC based on current policies, China’s target of a 20% share of renewable energy in total primary energy demand in 2030 would be increased to a minimum of 23%, and its carbon intensity target would be strengthened from 60-65% below 2005 levels to approximately 68%.

Therefore, in updating its NDC, China will need to go beyond this level to achieve a significant progression in scaling up its climate action. China’s next step could be to submit a strengthened NDC to the Paris Agreement by 2020, something it has indicated it intends to do, which would set a positive example or others to follow. In a bilateral meeting between France and China in November

2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a pact recommitting to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, which hopefully is a positive signal in this direction.

The UN Secretary-General said that deepening the collaboration with all stakeholders and amplifying the voice of youth to drive the ambitious commitments needed to secure and achieving the climate target within 1.5°C.

Guterres said: “Climate change issue should be seen as an international political priority, part of political discussion, and facilitating dialogue amongst countries and between the various stakeholders to move climate action forward.”

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