Background

  • “Environment” is a very broad field, and is the topic of more than 300 international conventions and thousands of agreements and treaties.
  • If climate change is not addressed:
  • Billions of dollars in infrastructure damage will ensue
  • Millions of people will be displaced due to rising ocean levels
  • More and more lives will be taken by extreme weather events (ex. Drought, hurricanes)
  • the Kyoto protocol is a significant climate change agreement signed in 1997 that aimed to reduce the emissions by 5% from 1990 levels by 2012
  • Not every country reached the goals set by this agreement but overall the participants reduced their emissions by between 1-5%
  • However global emissions rose by 7% between 1990-2008
  • The US (a major polluter then and even more so now) never signed on to the agreement
  • China has become one of the biggest polluters in the world since and was not a part of the agreement
  • No method or tool of enforcement was implemented in this unsuccessful treaty

Key Legal Issues

  • Because this area of international law is all voluntary compliance, there are no legal issues around the PCCA
  • As a result, it lacks ways for the commitments to be enforced
  • Because of this there is no infringement on sovereignty
  • The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1994) gives states the power to penalize non-compliance with treaties
  • This was not used with the PCCA as in other treaties concerning issues of similar threat to human life

Case

The Paris Climate Change Agreement (PCCA)

  • Goals agreed upon before the summit by the attending countries:
  • A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C (above pre-industrial levels)
  • To aim to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change
  • The need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries
  • To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.
  • Specific targets were set for each of the 196 countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions after a census was achieved
  • The countries have to prepare, maintain and publish their progress; this relies on accountability as a form of enforcement
  • For this to be effective, people must hold their governments accountable to the goals
  • The goal of the agreement is for the world to be carbon neutral by 2050
  • PCCA has the potential to be more successful than the Kyoto Protocol because
  • More key polluters in the world signed on (notably the US and China) to the PCCA
  • Public pressure for government action has increased (and continues to) around the world