Only a few months after the historic signing of the United Nations-sponsored COP-21 climate agreement in Paris in December, there are already signs of its possible failure. Early last week, the United States Supreme Court stayed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP) until its legality can be adjudicated, which could take several months.
On Feb. 8, in a stunning decision criticized by environmentalists, a 5-4 majority of the court delayed the EPA’s plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s fight to limit carbon emissions while lawsuits against the federal government by 29 states are adjudicated by lower courts. The decision is considered to be ominous because the top court usually allows such plans to stay in force until their own decision is made. The ruling, by a deeply conservative court, means it is almost certain that the fight over the plan will go on after Obama leaves office – and if a Republican is elected President in December, it would doom it.
After Paris, everyone went home more hopeful about the future. Leaders and negotiators went home with a climate deal in their hands, knowing full well what they needed to do in their countries to ensure they reach their targets. Civil society went home knowing the climate agreement is not enough and that there is a need increase ambition on the part of governments and to remind them what was promised in Paris.
The nations of the world gathered at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) last month to come to an agreement on the urgent mission of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, all they produced was an attractive vision statement that is more sham than solution.
It is imperative that the world invests significantly and quickly in climate mitigation strategies to reduce the human and economic cost of climate change, which is where COP21 fell short. The vague wording of the final declaration gives too much wiggle room for nations to avoid painful choices.
“This agreement is a great escape for the big polluters, and a poisoned chalice for the poor,” concludes Asad Rehman from the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice. “We’ve got some warm words about temperature levels, but no concrete action.”
Thus the Paris summit on climate change ended without a meaningful climate pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, a failure of will that places inordinate faith in voluntary compliance.
Climate change is expected to have severe costs in the Asia-Pacific region, given that countries like the Maldives, the Philippines and Indonesia made up of thousands of small islands, which are especially vulnerable. Nonetheless, some countries have been up to the challenge, particularly in Asia.
China is moving more rapidly toward renewable energy than arguably any other country in the world. It has stopped approving new coal mines. Vietnam has committed to phasing out coal. Indonesia has made promises toward reducing the destruction of peat forests which are some of the world’s biggest storehouses of carbon, the main element in greenhouse gases. Even the American business community is moving fast to solar and other renewables, outrunning a conservative Congress in thrall to oil companies
But others in Asia have been reluctant to make such commitments, particularly India, which is rising fast up the scale on the way to become a major source of greenhouse gases. It is now ranked third after China and the United States. Indonesia’s greenhouse promises could evaporate in the face of global sales of palm oil and the drive to create new oil palm plantations. The Philippines, despite its critical position as vulnerable to ocean rise and increasingly violent tropical storms, in June budgeted for 21 new coal-fired plants.