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5 Fast Facts About The Paris Climate Change Agreement

It seems like you can’t read a newspaper or turn on a television without reading a new study on climate change. With melting ice caps and species dying, things are a bit frightening.

And given recent events, it seems discussions are more heated than ever.

President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Change Agreement was a controversial decision, to say the least. Previously, the U.S. was working with 195 other countries to try and combat the effects of global warming.

But what is exactly is the Accord and what does it mean for international diplomacy?

Keep reading for some quick facts to get you up to speed.

5 Fast Facts About the Paris Climate Change Agreement

1. The United States Can’t Pull Out Overnight

It’s going to take a few years before the U.S. is officially done with the Paris Accord. While Trump’s decision made headlines, the withdrawal will take more time than he thinks.

Just how long will it take for the United States to revoke their membership? About 4 years, which coincides with the next presidential election.

This means that Trump’s decision can be easily reversed should he not serve a second term.

2. There are Only 3 Countries Not Participating in the Agreement

Originally, there were only 2 countries — Nicaragua and Syria — that didn’t sign on to the Accord. Should President Trump’s decision stand, the United States will become the third.

Even areas that the U.S. has traditionally had issues with such as Russia and North Korea participate.

3. The Paris Climate Change Agreement Isn’t Legally Binding

As it turns out, the reason Nicaragua declined to sign was for this very reason. While the country acknowledges climate change as a very real threat, they believe it’s up to the richer nations to combat change first.

And therein lies one of the most important aspects of the Accord. It isn’t a legally binding document, so there isn’t much of anything to hold a country’s feet to the fire. Participation is entirely on a voluntary basis.

4. China and India Complicate Matters

And since the Accord is voluntary, there aren’t any tangible consequences — at least not yet.

China and India pose the two biggest threats to the fight on climate change, as both nations produce large amounts of carbon emissions.

You may recall President Trump’s assertion that, “China can do whatever they want for 13 years” while the U.S. has to reduce coal production. In fact, it was touted as one of his primary reasons for removing the U.S. from talks.

His statement, however, is simply not true. PolitiFact points out that the document doesn’t prohibit any nation from anything.

5. Most State Representatives Aren’t Happy With the Decision

Several states have already said that they’re not following the President’s orders. In fact, New York and California have already promised to reduce their emissions.

In an unprecedented move, Trump’s decision united bipartisan efforts to combat climate change.

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How Rwanda’s Largest Climate Resilience Investment is Taking Shape
April 24, 2018
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Weather related disasters such as flooding and landslides affecting the livelihoods of residents of Gicumbi District, Northern Province could soon be curbed following the launch of a $32.8m initiative funded by the Green Climate Fund.
The initiative is a partnership with the Ministry of Environment and aims at building resilience of small-holder farmers and communities vulnerable to climate change who have often lost their harvest due to changing weather patterns.
The project, dubbed “Strengthening Climate resilience of Communities in Northern Rwanda,” is one of the largest investments in regards to climate resilience and is set to run for 6 years between 2018 and 2024.
It is part of Rwanda’s pathways towards developing a low carbon economy.
The initiative will directly support about 150,000 residents, with wider benefits to more than 380,000 people all who have little resources to mitigate and adapt to climate change, officials say.
Coletha Ruhamya, the Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA), last week told Business Times that the project will protect River Muvumba watershed as well as establish adaptation and mitigation approaches in the agricultural sector and green settlements.
“Rwanda has been awarded a $32.8 million grant to strengthen climate resilience in Gicumbi District. The project will be facilitated by Rwanda Green Climate Fund (FONERWA) and aims to restore and enhance part of Muvumba watershed, increase the capacity of communities to renew and sustainably manage forest resources, and support smallholder farmers to adopt climate resilient agriculture,” she said.
More than half a million Rwandans, she added, will be impacted by the investment in nine sectors of Gicumbi District which include; Kaniga, Rubaya, Cyumba, Rushaki, Shangasha, Mukarange, Manyagiro, Byumba and Bwisige.
The approaches are soon to be replicated across the country, she said.
The investment plan shows that in addition to the $32.8 million grant from the Green Climate Fund, FONERWA will contribute $147,000 to the project while Gicumbi District has allocated $107,000. Wood Foundation is also providing $105,964.
“We are pleased with the progress we are making in accessing and utilizing funding through Green Climate Fund as we seek to meet our socio-economic transformation goals to become a developed, low carbon economy,” Ruhamya said.
Among the expected outcomes of the project include improved management of land and forests leading to emissions reduction, strengthened adaptive capacity and reduced exposure to climate risks, fuel-efficient cooking methods and modification of human settlements to increase climate resilience.
Reducing carbon emission
Over the six years course of the project, it estimates that an equivalent of 273,720 tonnes of carbon dioxide will be mitigated.
The project’s statistical background shows that climate change in Rwanda has had significant impacts such as rise in temperature over recent decades.
It further shows that the future economic cost of climate change in Rwanda could be significant if left unchecked. It is estimated at an additional impact of 1 per cent of GDP each year by 2030.
The trends indicate that the changes in rainfall (and rainfall unpredictability) are increasingly becoming uncertain, though an increase in heavy rainfall in Rwanda is projected as well as increases in rainfall uncertainty.
Experts say could worsen the impacts of then current climate uncertainty in the country leading to new risks.
Gicumbi welcomes initiative
Juvenal Mudaheranwa, the Mayor of Gicumbi District told Business Times in an interview that weather related disasters have been a major cause of losses to farmers in the area.
“The project is timely since farmers are already counting losses. The waters coming from small rivers that connect to Muvumba Rivers have caused flooding and landslides over the last two weeks. This is because there no infrastructure controlling erosion in the catchments such as terraces, forestry to sustain the soil,” he said.
In recent weeks, he said flooding has affected over 100 hectares of tea plantations and other crops in the area targeted by the climate resilience initiative.
“Farmers will feel relived once implementation begins while human settlements are also an issue that we expect that the project will tackle. We have also had cases of floods destroying infrastructure such as roads and bridges in the area. We are still in the process of generating a full report of recent disaster effects in the area,” he said.
Need of involving private sector in climate resilient investments
The Green Climate Fund which provided the grant for the project is also inviting private sector partners to submit project proposals to be considered for such funding.
According to Ruhamya, so far none of Rwanda’s private sector investors has secured financing from the Fund.
“There are many opportunities for private sector to address environmental challenges, including climate change impact in the sectors of agriculture, energy, water, forests, waste management, industries and transport among others,” she said.
The financing to Rwanda, according to Ruhamya, is part of Paris Agreement on climate change where developed nations agreed to mobilise $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries which also requires private sector involvement.
“It was also agreed that a share of the climate finance under the agreement should be channeled through the Green Climate Fund”, she said.
Rwanda has been working with Green Climate Fund for years which in 2015 led government to receive direct access accreditation to the Fund.
Since 2015, Rwanda has had access to preparatory programmes worth about $2.5 million in aspects such as capacity building in a bid to develop as a low carbon economy.
$1.5 billion private sector Facility
Speaking last week at a workshop on engaging private sector members to access financing from the Fund, Ayaan Adam, the Director of Private Sector Facility at Green Climate Fund, said that they are looking out for projects that are in line with national ambitions.
“We are looking for projects that are in line with countries’ ambition to basically support the Paris Agreement and their national adaptation plans. We had a capital of $10 billion at inception. We have approved programmes worth $6.3 billion and $1.5 billion for private sector of which some major projects were funded in Africa, such as Egypt multi-billion renewable frameworks,” she said.
Going forward, she noted the need to identify areas relevant to private sector intervention as well as encouraging public private partnership in implementing low carbon emissions projects.
Callixte Kanamugire, the Chief Advocacy Officer at Private Sector Federation, said: “We have to foster awareness and capacity building on how to design bankable projects and access to the funds. This is what is needed to encourage us to invset in green economy.

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Environmental Jurisprudence– what is to be done to save future problems
April 13, 2017
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Environmental Jurisprudence

 

If one wants to indulge in any discourse on environment, one should not forget to mention that almost all the countries of the world are unanimous in their view that centuries of invention driven development has brought the existence on the earth to a crossroads and the people have before them only two options left—to live reasonably or face the gradual extinction.  In fact, scientific achievements, one after another, made people very complacent and they did not think even for a while that more development would mean more adoption of faster but unscrupulous means that will some day lead to a very dangerous situation.  Let alone laymen, even the knowledgeable people with scientific approach to the advancement of society forgot that hasty development efforts made for a long time would result in catastrophic climate change or global warming.  Now, almost everyone agrees that global warming should be retarded and finally stopped in a phasewise manner.  People have been compelled to think so because scientists all over the world no think that steps need to be taken to limit the temperature rises across the world to 2oC.  The exigency of the aim will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next five years.  A bigger rise of 3oC to 4oC—the seemingly insignificant increase as a delayed action would ravage the earth, i.e. the continents would run short of water.   It would mean farmland changing into desert; almost fifty percent of all species becoming extinct; displacing millions of people, a number of nations submerging under water.

 

The world is quite aware that development means consumption of energy-producing materials which is not possible without carbon emission in most of the cases.  It was the worry of the scientific community all over the world that forced all the major nations of the world to sit together and adopt on December 11, 1977 a Protocol in Kyoto Protocol.  In November 2009, 187 nations signed and ratified it.  Under the Protocol, 37 industrialised countries (called Annexe I countries) commit themselves to a reduction of four greenhouse gases (GHG)—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and sulphurhexafluoride—and two groups of gases (hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons) produced by them, and all member countries give general commitments.  The Annexe I countries agreed to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent from the 1990 level.  Emission limits do not include emissions by international aviation and shipping.  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are dealt with under the1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.  The benchmark 1990 emission levels accepted by Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were the values of global warming potential calculated for the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC)’s Second Assessment Report.

As far as India is concerned, it has taken the Kyoto Protocol very seriously.  In fact, India started serious legislative attempts several years (almost two decades) prior to the Kyoto Protocol’s coming into effect in 2005.  The 42nd Amendment in 1976 to the Constitution introduced new provisions.  A provision added to the Directive Principle of state policy reads that the state shall endeavor to protect and improve environment and to safeguard the forests and the wildlife of the country.  Among the Fundamental Duties, prominent is the duty to protect environment.  Every citizen shall have a fundamental duty to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and have a compassion for living creatures.  The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, referred to as Water Act 1974, was passed, as its name indicates, for the purpose of prevention and control of pollution.  Water being a State subject, Parliament passed the law on the request of some of the States.  The Act envisages not only to control pollution of water but to also restore and maintain the wholesomeness of water.  The philosophy behind it is that water is ‘jeevan’, the life-giving force for every living organism and man has a bounden duty to preserve it.  The Act defines pollution as “contamination of water, alteration of the physical, chemical or biological properties of water or discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into water.  Prohibition of disposal of pollution matter to a stream or well or sewer or on land is key to the regulatory system under the Act.

 

Besides the Water Act, the Environmental Protection Act passed in 1986, referred to as EPA, also contains provisions for control of pollution of water.  EPA defines environment as including water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land and human beings and other living creatures, plants, micro-organisms and properties.  Subject to the provisions of the Act, the Central Government shall have the power to take measures necessary for protecting the environment.  It can constitute authorities, appoint officers, issue directions for the purpose of the Act air(Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, hereinafter referred to as Air Act was passed by the Parliament under Article 253 of the Constitution.  This Act is an extension of Water Act 1974 and entrusts powers and functions to the boards which are constituted under the Water Act for their exercise and discharge.  Under the Act, air pollution means any solid, liquid or gaseous substance, present in atmosphere in such concentration as may be injurious to human beings or living creatures, plant, property or environment.  State government is authorized to notify ‘air pollution control areas; to prohibit use of such fuels in the said areas which in the opinion of the State government are likely to cause pollution.  In such areas no person shall establish or operate industrial unit without permission and no person operating industrial unit shall discharge or cause emission of any air pollutant in excess of the prescribed standard.  Failure to comply with provisions of the Act will attract penal consequences.  The Air Act operates in tandem with the Environmental Protection Act.  The boards constituted under the Act will be empowered to control soil pollution.

 

Every legislation carries within it the aspirations of social well-being.  Out of the widespread concerns for large-scale deforestation, resulting in ecological imbalance and environmental degradation, the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 was passed.  Restriction on de-reservation of forests or use of forests, or forest lands for non-forest purpose is the crux of the Act.  The expression ‘Non-forest Purpose’ is significant.  It means breaking up or clearing of any forest land for the cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing plants, horticulture corps or medicinal plants.  The law enables the Central Government to appoint a committee, to advise it on the grant of prior approval and matters connected with the conservation of forests.  The 9th Five-year Plan proposed legislations in the field of conservation of energy.  Considering the vast potential of energy savings and benefits of energy efficiency, the Parliament enacted the Energy Conservation Act 2001.  The Act provides for the legal framework, institutional arrangement and a regulatory mechanism at the Central and State levels to embark upon energy efficiency drive in the country.  Under the Act, “energy” means any form of energy derived from fossil fuels, nuclear substances or materials, hydro-electricity and includes electrical energy of electricity generated from renewable sources of energy or bio-mass connected to the grid.  The Act led to the establishment of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).  The primary objective of the BEE is to reduce the energy intensity through institutionalizing and strengthening of delivery mechanisms for energy efficiency services.  The thrust areas identified for implementation are: Indian industries energy programme for energy conservation, designated consumer, standards and labeling programmes for equipments, certification and accreditation of energy managers, energy auditors, etc.  The Act notifies 15 energy-intensive industries as designated consumers, to comply with benchmark energy consumption, to carry out energy audit and to appoint energy managers.

 

The key environmental challenges that the country faces relate to the nexus of environmental degradation with poverty in its many dimensions.  The proximate drivers of environmental degradation are population growth, and subsequent scarcity of resources.  This is connected with the state of environmental resources, such as land, water, air and their flora and fauna.  It is said that population grows geometrically and production increases arithmetically.  The rapid and uncontrolled growth of population is the greatest danger to the environment.  Vast population causes overburden on the natural resources.  Population explosion gave birth to poverty and that in turn generated pollution and environmental degradation.    When such degradation impacts soil fertility, quantity and quality of water, air quality, forest, wildlife and fisheries, it enhances and perpetuates poverty.  Thus it becomes a vicious circle of degradation of both human life and nature.  Poor people have limited access to resources. Poor communities suffer most, when the environment deteriorates, as they are not capable of taking necessary measures to prevent degradation.  In addition, mighty legislation with effective implementation strategy has become inevitable to control plastic pollution.  The future legislation need to take into consideration the prohibition of use of disposable plastics, irresponsible throwing away of plastic, etc.  While prohibiting plastic, the possible alternatives and their ecology impact need to be scientifically studied.  It is suggested that the future legislation should bring forth an institutional mechanism which will simultaneously take serious actions (including penalties) against plastic pollution and encourage and establish scientific research in this area.

 

Noise is also a major pollutant of the environment.  In 1976, loss of hearing due to noise was included in the Factories Act.  But in the Air Act, noise was not included as air pollutant when drafted originally.  The term emission includes only solid, liquid or gaseous substance.  It does not include noise.  Therefore, the noise blown out from an industrial unit will not be a noise.  Vehicles are also potential makers of noise pollution.  The statutory rules framed under the Motor Vehicles Act 1989 mandate that vehicles should have electric horns of approved standard.  In 1993, by amendment, it was substituted by noise standard indicated by the rules.  These rules have a very limited scope to deal with a particular type of noise.  The EPA authorized the Central Government to frame rules to cover noise pollution of every kind.  Similarly, the Water Act does not deal with groundwater pollution which needs a serious consideration.  Groundwater is available from underground aquifers.  Aquifers near surface are subject to annual discharge from precipitation, which can be affected by human interference.  Contamination and depletion of groundwater is caused by improper use of agricultural chemicals and other industrial and urban uses.  Since it is a major source of drinking water, immediate efforts are required to protect and preserve groundwater by law.  Definition of the term ‘stream’ in the Act can be interpreted to include subterranean water.  Thus wider interpretation of the provision may bring groundwater pollution under the Act.  But the overburdened Pollution Control Boards are normally reluctant to go for such wider interpretation of law and to assume powers.  It is advisable to enact comprehensive legislation exclusively deal with groundwater pollution.  Water Act does not provide for public participation and impact study, before a decision is taken to grant the consent.  This defect needs to be cured by apt amendments.  Number of people dying in urban India due to deteriorating air quality is increasing day by day.  The Air Act does not empower the Pollution Control Boards to prosecute polluters outside the limits of air pollution control areas’.  This provision also requires a revisit.

 

Promotion of public transport in urban areas can reduce energy consumption, especially that of fossil fuels.  Right to travel is also a part of right to life as it includes all comfortable living conditions.  Therefore, legal attempts are necessary to accelerate a drive for effective and mass transport, such as underground and elevated trains or dedicated bus lanes to serve the future population.  As a result of the initiative taken by BEE under the Energy Conservation Act, CFL bulbs are widely advertised and largely used.  It is reported that they carry a significant mercury hazard, if allowed to enter our landfills through mishandled disposal cycle.  There are suggestions about BEE taking initiatives to compel manufacturers to take back the CFL waste for recycling.  Conservation can be promoted by making them available at economical rates.  Renewable energy sources like wind, solar, biomass, and biogas are available locally and are environment-friendly.  Promotion of various non-conventional energy sources will play a central role in protection of natural resources and reduction of greenhouse gas emission.  Article 21 of the Constitution deals with a fundamental right which reads as follows, “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.”  Though this Article does not explicitly mention environment, the Supreme Court and High Courts have given a wider interpretation to the word ‘life’ Article.  According to them, right to life includes the right to living in an environment congenial to human existence.

 

Taking environment seriously, the 12th Five-Year Plan document clearly says that India faces the twin challenges of adaptation and mitigation.  As a country with many critical sectors and regions that are highly climate-sensitive, there are significant costs in addressing the impact of climate variability and change.  At the same time, as a signatory to the UNFCCC, India is expected to undertake mitigation actions consistent with the multilateral framework.  India has already taken decisive steps in this regard.  Over the 11th Plan Period, it initiated the National Action Plan on Climate Change, which is monitored by a body no less than the Prime Minister’s Council for Climate Change. It has set up an Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment for making periodic assessment of climate variability and change.  It has also set up an Expert Group to evolve Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth, which has made important recommendations for power, industry, transport, buildings and forestry sectors.

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