What none of Canada's leaders understand about the Paris Agreement
Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Canada committed to reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (about 80% of which is carbon dioxide (CO2)) by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. This means a reduction from 730 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2005 to 511 Mt CO2 eq in 2030. China, by far the world's largest emitter, committed to stop increasing CO2 emissions by 2030.
This asymmetry makes no sense, of course. Allowing China, which now emits about twice as much as America, to increase emissions over this period, while restricting Canada and the U.S., would result in even more industries moving to China. Total global CO2 emissions would then likely rise even faster.
But that problem pales in comparison with the fact that, unknown to most observers, China and other developing nations need not ever curtail emissions under Paris. It’s all in the fine print.
All United Nations climate-change agreements, including Paris, are based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Paris treaty says,
“The Parties to this Agreement, in pursuit of the objective of the Convention [UNFCCC], and being guided by its principles”
And UNFCCC Article 4 makes it clear that:
“The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”
In other words, under the Paris Agreement and other treaties based on the UNFCCC, any commitments developing nations make to reduce their GHG emissions are conditioned on developed countries giving them enough money and technology. Former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed this in a Fox News interview on Oct. 17, 2017, saying, “India conditioned all of the responsibilities on receiving $2.5 trillion of aid.”
But even if developed countries give developing countries everything promised, under the UNFCCC, developing countries may apparently still ignore their commitments to restrict emissions if such actions would interfere with their “first and overriding priorities” [of] “economic and social development and poverty eradication.”
We, of course, are expected to keep our emission reduction commitments no matter how it damages our economy.
UN bureaucrats have not hidden this inequality. They repeatedly explain “development and poverty eradication” are the most important issues for developing countries. Climate change clearly takes a back seat.
Restricting CO2 emissions in developing nations would almost certainly involve significantly reducing the use of coal, the source of well over half of China’s electricity, for example. As coal is the cheapest source of power in most of the world, restricting CO2 emissions by reducing coal use would obviously interfere with development priorities. So, no matter what emission reductions they promise, China and many other developing countries are unlikely to follow their commitments, citing UNFCCC Article 4 as their excuse.
This is unlikely to change even as developing countries become more prosperous. Chinese negotiator Su Wei stated at the Peru UN climate conference in 2014 that the purpose of the Paris Agreement is to “reinforce and enhance” the UNFCCC, not rewrite it.
Canada, and indeed all developed nations, are being taken for a ride.