Before June 1st, the average citizen in any given country was probably unaware of the Climate Change Conference that took place in Paris in 2015 (hence, the Paris Climate agreement), and that their country had, more than likely, ratified to take part in it.
However, all that changed when President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement on Thursday, outraging country leaders and making it breaking news that was shared around the world.
With 195 of 197 countries originally endorsing the agreement back in December of 2015, the United States has now joined Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries who are not apart of the deal.
With Laos being one of the 194 participating countries who have committed to the pact, here’s what you need to know about the Paris Climate Agreement.
What is the purpose of this agreement? The agreement is a broad framework designed to sway nations to prevent catastrophic climate change. The pact was created to add structure and momentum in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, by limiting carbon emissions, adopting clean energy practices and phasing out fossil fuels.
What’s the goal? The objective of the Paris agreement aims to prevent global average temperatures from rising 2°C (compared to temperatures pre-industrial revolution) by the end of the century. Beyond 2 degrees, we risk drastically higher seas, changes in weather patterns, food and water crises, and an overall a more destitute world.
Though some critics have argued that the 2-degree mark is too low to make any difference, many believe that it’s a start, a goal that before Paris, the world was on track to recklessly miss.
How does the United States withdrawing from the agreement indirectly affect Laos?
The agreement essentially urges wealthier countries to help out impoverished and underdeveloped countries, like Laos. In the case of global emissions, there’s a paramount inequality. Rich countries have devastated and consumed enormous amounts of fossil fuels, and gotten rich from them. Poor countries who are now attempting to grow their economies are shunned from using the same fuels, and will be among the first to endure the worst impacts of climate change.
Therefore, as part of the Paris agreement, wealthier countries like the US, are urged- but not mandated, to send $100 billion a year in aid by 2020 to the poorer countries, to assist in obtaining clean energy, cope with sea-level rise, droughts, floods, and other ravages of climate change.
What has Laos done to maintain its pledge to the treaty? As previously reported by The Laotian Times, Laos signed the agreement on April 22, 2016 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Five months later, in September of 2016, the country contributed to the global Climate Change Agenda and implemented Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs)for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, funded by Global Environment Facility in partnership with UNDP and the Department of Disaster Management and Climate Change.
Also, the country’s First Programmatic Green Growth Development Policy Operation will be launched this year, which aims to establish the foundation for ‘green growth’, planning and strengthening environmental protection and resilience to climate change in Laos.
The program focuses on three priorities: reducing risks to prudent economic management; integrating principles of ‘green growth’, environmental protection, and resilience into development planning; and promoting sector-specific transformative initiatives, i.e. managing water resources, forest use, and pollution.
To focus on risks to the economy, the operation will target strengthening fiscal sustainability and financial sector stability. Some of the program’s goals include establishing a system of national parks, banishing the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides, and enforcing control on illegal logging.
The ‘green growth’ initiative is part of the World Bank’s new Country Partnership Framework for Lao PDR. The new framework for 2017 to 2021 outlines the approach of the continued partnership, which includes as a key priority, the protection of the environment through sustainable management of natural resources and enhanced resilience to disaster risks and climate change.
What happens now? The Paris agreement is significantly symbolic, and will persist on even if the United States is withdrawn. In 2020, delegates will reconvene and provide updates about their emission pledges, and report on how they’re becoming more aggressive on accomplishing the 2-degree goal.
Countries will be encouraged to submit new and stronger pledges every five years, starting in 2020. Though the agreement doesn’t require anyone to keep cutting emissions aggressively, the goal is to influence countries to consider stronger action over time.
Click here to read a previous Laotian Times article about Laos Contributing to the Global Climate Change Agenda