Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

The Paris agreement is no panacea


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kyoto Protocol, Rio Declaration, Copenhagen Accord etc

Mains level : Paper 3- Paris Agreement and issues with it

The article highlights the fact that the provisions of the Paris Agreement would not be enough to avert the catastrophic and irreversible changes resulting from the global emissions. 

Past efforts for environmental protection

  • The most hopeful time for global cooperation in protection of the planet was between the time of the Stockholm Conference (1972) and the time of the Rio Conference (1992).
  •  Scientific evidence about role anthropogenic emission in global warming led to political initiatives to harmonise development and environment.
  • The historic consensus in Rio led to the adoption of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).
  • A distinction was made between the “luxury emissions” of the developed countries and the survival emissions of the developed countries, which were allowed to increase.
  • Moreover, a huge financial package was approved to develop environment-friendly technologies in developing countries.

Copenhagen Accord: Abandonment of Rio Principles

  • After the adoption of UNFCC, Conference of the Parties was held in Berlin in 1995 where developed countries backed off from their commitments.
  • Though the G-77 was split, the Rio principles were maintained.
  • The Kyoto Protocol enshrined the Rio principles.
  • It fixed emission targets for developed countries and a complex set of provisions was included to satisfy their interests.
  • The end of the Kyoto Protocol and the abandonment of the spirit of the Rio principles were reflected in the Copenhagen Accord (2009).
  • Argument given was that a global climate action plan would be possible only if all reductions of the greenhouse gases were made voluntary.

Paris Agreement: Making emission reduction voluntary

  • The Paris Agreement moved away from the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
  • All countries were placed on an equal footing by making reduction of greenhouse gas emissions voluntary.
  • It requires all parties to put forward their best efforts through nationally determined contributions (NDCs)

Shortcomings in Paris Agreement

  • The NDCs so far submitted will not result in the desired objective of limiting increase of global warming to below 2°C.
  • The Paris Agreement requires that all countries — rich, poor, developed, and developing — slash greenhouse gas emissions.
  • But no language is included on the commitments the countries should make.
  • Nations can voluntarily set their emissions targets and incur no penalties for falling short of their targets.
  •  Further temperature rise, even of 1.5°C, may result in catastrophic and irreversible changes.
  • Even a 1°C hotter planet is not a steady state, says a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


The IPCC report acknowledges that “the pathways to avoiding an even hotter world would require a swift and complete transformation not just of the global economy but of society too”. This will only be possible if the world rejects nationalism and parochialism and adopts collaborative responses to the crisis. The Paris Agreement falls short of that imperative.

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