The Paris Agreement: Pros & Cons

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty to reduce climate change.1 Adopted by 197 countries in December 2015, its goal is to limit global warming to 1.5°C.2 Its parties are legally bound to aim to peak their greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.3 They must subsequently reduce their emissions to achieve a climate-neutral world by the mid-21st century.4

Read further to find out the pros and cons of the Paris Climate Agreement and the effectiveness of carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

What are the pros of The Paris Agreement?

International recognition for addressing climate change

The Paris Agreement is a landmark in efforts to address global climate change. It successfully elicited public recognition from every country in the world that we should keep the planet’s temperature rise below 2°C.5 The signatories have also agreed that emissions need to peak as early as possible. It creates a useful framework for all countries to reduce their carbon emissions. Such a high level of commitment to tackling climate change by so many governments is unprecedented.6 It holds the world’s largest emitters proportionally responsible.

Emphasis on developed nations to transition to renewable energy sources 

Developed countries currently produce 63 per cent of global emissions.7 They are also in a far better position to transition to renewable sources of energy. Poorer countries will need to burn more fossil fuels as they improve the living standards for their citizens.8 The Agreement recognises this, and it specifies that developed nations take the lead in reducing emissions.9 

What are the cons of The Paris Agreement?

Lack of accountability and repercussions

The terms laid out in the Paris Agreement are difficult to enforce. There are no repercussions for countries who fail to meet their targets.10 Without legal ramifications, some countries see their pledges as meaningless, and, therefore, do not prioritise a reduction in carbon emissions.11 Considering the importance of climate change, measures should be included to ensure countries achieve their goals.

Current pledges aren’t sufficient

Individual countries’ pledges dictate their own greenhouse gas emissions reductions.12 As a result, the current pledges would not actually maintain a maximum rise in temperature of  2°C.13 Even if they were met, they would lead to a temperature rise of about 3°C by the end of the century.14 There needs to be unanimous agreement over how much each state needs to reduce its emissions to avoid a global environmental catastrophe.

The Paris Climate Agreement and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)

The Paris Agreement provides an agreed framework for countries to avoid a global rise in temperature from carbon emissions. One technology that offers a solution to this issue is carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).15 It has been used to support both the pros and cons of the Paris Climate Agreement. CCUS works by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial processes or from fuel combustion.16 This carbon is then typically stored to prevent it from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.17 The industry claims that CCUS technology can capture up to 90 per cent of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel plants.18

Whilst this may seem like a useful solution to the emissions crisis, in reality, CCUS technologies have not made much impact. Firstly, capture facilities on power plants have to consume about 30 per cent of the energy produced by the plant.19 This results in even more fossil fuels being burned. Moreover, of the 65 commercial CCUS facilities across the globe, only 26 are currently operational.20 One example is Petra Nova. It is the world’s largest post-combustion capture facility installed on an existing coal power plant.21 According to its own figures, it captures 90 per cent of the CO2 from an adjacent coal unit.22 However, this is incorrect. When also considering the emissions the capture equipment itself produces, Petra Nova is capturing just 50 per cent of CO2 emissions.23 This is an improvement, but a transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources would result in far lower emissions. It would therefore align much more closely with the ambitions of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Paris Agreement

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Sources

  1. European Commission (2016). Paris Agreement. [online] European Commission. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en.
  2. Nations, U. (n.d.). The Paris Agreement. [online] United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/paris-agreement#:~:text=Today%2C%20189%20countries%20have%20joined.
  3. European Commission (2016). Paris Agreement. [online] European Commission. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en.
  4. European Commission (2016). Paris Agreement. [online] European Commission. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/international/negotiations/paris_en.
  5. Committee on Climate Change. (2015). The good, the bad and the ugly of the Paris Agreement – Committee on Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2015/12/21/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-the-paris-agreement/.
  6. Committee on Climate Change. (2015). The good, the bad and the ugly of the Paris Agreement – Committee on Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2015/12/21/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-the-paris-agreement/.
  7. Center For Global Development. (2011). Developing Countries Are Responsible for 63 Percent of Current Carbon Emissions. [online] Available at: https://www.cgdev.org/media/developing-countries-are-responsible-63-percent-current-carbon-emissions.
  8. Sustained Kitchen. (n.d.). Pros and Cons of the Paris Climate Agreement. [online] Available at: https://www.sustained.kitchen/latest/2020/11/18/pros-and-cons-of-the-paris-climate-agreement.
  9. Sustained Kitchen. (n.d.). Pros and Cons of the Paris Climate Agreement. [online] Available at: https://www.sustained.kitchen/latest/2020/11/18/pros-and-cons-of-the-paris-climate-agreement.
  10. PARIS AGREEMENT (mm UNITED NATIONS 2015. (2015). [online] . Available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf.
  11. Sustained Kitchen. (n.d.). Pros and Cons of the Paris Climate Agreement. [online] Available at: https://www.sustained.kitchen/latest/2020/11/18/pros-and-cons-of-the-paris-climate-agreement [Accessed 9 Feb. 2021].
  12. Committee on Climate Change. (2015). The good, the bad and the ugly of the Paris Agreement – Committee on Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2015/12/21/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-the-paris-agreement/.
  13. Committee on Climate Change. (2015). The good, the bad and the ugly of the Paris Agreement – Committee on Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2015/12/21/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-the-paris-agreement/.
  14. Committee on Climate Change. (2015). The good, the bad and the ugly of the Paris Agreement – Committee on Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/2015/12/21/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-the-paris-agreement/.
  15. IEA. (n.d.). Carbon capture, utilisation and storage – Fuels & Technologies. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/carbon-capture-utilisation-and-storage.
  16. IEA. (n.d.). Carbon capture, utilisation and storage – Fuels & Technologies. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/carbon-capture-utilisation-and-storage.
  17. IEA. (n.d.). Carbon capture, utilisation and storage – Fuels & Technologies. [online] Available at: https://www.iea.org/fuels-and-technologies/carbon-capture-utilisation-and-storage.
  18. DeSmog. (n.d.). Carbon Capture and Storage – Is It a Viable Emissions Reduction Technology? [online] Available at: https://www.desmogblog.com/carbon-capture-and-storage-technology#:~:text=How%20effective%20is%20carbon%20capture%20and%20storage%20from%20fossil%20fuel%20plants%3F&text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20CCS [Accessed 9 Feb. 2021].
  19. DeSmog. (n.d.). Carbon Capture and Storage – Is It a Viable Emissions Reduction Technology? [online] Available at: https://www.desmogblog.com/carbon-capture-and-storage-technology#:~:text=How%20effective%20is%20carbon%20capture%20and%20storage%20from%20fossil%20fuel%20plants%3F&text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20CCS [Accessed 9 Feb. 2021].
  20. Global CCS Institute. (2019). Global Status Report – Global CCS Institute. [online] Available at: https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/resources/global-status-report/.
  21. DeSmog. (n.d.). Carbon Capture and Storage – Is It a Viable Emissions Reduction Technology? [online] Available at: https://www.desmogblog.com/carbon-capture-and-storage-technology#:~:text=How%20effective%20is%20carbon%20capture%20and%20storage%20from%20fossil%20fuel%20plants%3F&text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20CCS [Accessed 9 Feb. 2021].
  22. DeSmog. (n.d.). Carbon Capture and Storage – Is It a Viable Emissions Reduction Technology? [online] Available at: https://www.desmogblog.com/carbon-capture-and-storage-technology#:~:text=How%20effective%20is%20carbon%20capture%20and%20storage%20from%20fossil%20fuel%20plants%3F&text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20CCS [Accessed 9 Feb. 2021].
  23. DeSmog. (n.d.). Carbon Capture and Storage – Is It a Viable Emissions Reduction Technology? [online] Available at: https://www.desmogblog.com/carbon-capture-and-storage-technology#:~:text=How%20effective%20is%20carbon%20capture%20and%20storage%20from%20fossil%20fuel%20plants%3F&text=Research%20has%20shown%20that%20CCS [Accessed 9 Feb. 2021].