Sunday, June 12, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: Paris Climate Agreement May Unravel Next Year, India Fears

Is China Having Second Thoughts About Paris Deal?

In this newsletter:

1) Paris Climate Agreement May Unravel Next Year, India Fears
Business Standard, 10 June 2016
2) Is China Having Second Thoughts About Paris Deal?
Bloomberg, 6 June 2016

3) Paris Climate Deal Vulnerable To A Trump Presidency
Financial Times, 29 May 2016
4) EU May Delay Paris Ratification Until 2030 Burden Sharing Is Agreed
Climate Home, 10 June 2016
5) David Whitehouse: Pacific Stalagmites Cast Doubt On Climate Models And Projections
Global Warming Policy Forum, 10 June 2016

Full details:

1) Paris Climate Agreement May Unravel Next Year, India Fears
Business Standard, 10 June 2016
Nitin Sethi, New Delhi 
Neither the US nor India has committed to a formal ratification of the Paris agreement by the end of 2016 in the much-hyped joint statement on climate change. The political imperatives before outgoing US President Barack Obama, domestic legal requirements in India and the procedural complications of the Paris agreement collectively ensured that the two didn't.
The statement, issued during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, reads: “The United States reaffirms its commitment to join the Agreement as soon as possible this year.” The US has shied from using the word ‘ratification’, as it would require approval from the US senate, which President Obama is unlikely to secure from the Republican citadel.
During the negotiations between the two countries, preceding Modi’s tour, the US had insisted that India should commit to a joining the Paris agreement as well by 2016-end, India, however, stopped short of such a commitment in the bilateral statement.
Consequently, the joint statement reads, “India similarly has begun its processes to work toward this shared objective.” Indian negotiators insisted upon this insertion to replace the single and asymmetric sentence that the US had offered, binding only India to ratification by the end of this year, sources told Business Standard.
The Paris agreement provides four options for the countries to adopt the global deal. Article 21(1) of the pact permits countries to ratify, accept, approve or accede. Each term has different implications in different countries’ domestic, constitutional and legal framework. For the US, a ratification of a non-trade agreement necessarily requires approval from the Senate, which President Obama is keen to avoid. But other terms, which provide options for the US President to adopt the agreement through an executive order, also leave the door open for the future US Presidents to walk out.
The option available to the US, to easily walk out of the deal, worries many developing countries, including India. The fact that the US had kept out of the Kyoto Protocol after negotiating till the last moment, as well as the current election rhetoric by the Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has threatened to pull out of the Paris agreement, have impacted the negotiations between key developing countries and the US.
“President Obama is pushing hard to get the Paris agreement going as his legacy. But he can only join the agreement. He can’t ratify it. What if developing countries ratify it, helping the Paris agreement come into force by 2016-end, but the next US President walks out of it with a simple executive order? We have to be mindful of the possibilities,” said one of the negotiators.
The Paris agreement would come into force only when at least 55 countries — accounting for at least 55 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions — ratify, approve, accept or accede to the agreement. India accounts for only 4.01 per cent of total global emissions.
Domestically, India needs to undertake inter-ministerial consultations for ratifying any international agreement that has economy-wide implications. But the Modi government is not required to secure a Parliamentary approval before ratifying an international treaty.
“Broadly speaking, India would have to undertake inter-ministerial consultations, consult with states, and ensure that legislative requirements are in place for implementing the pact before the Union Cabinet ratifies the Paris agreement,” said J M Mauskar, member of the Prime Minister’s council on climate change and a former senior negotiator for India.
“I think it was a mature decision between the two allies, based on acknowledgement, appreciation and understanding of each other’s domestic and constitutional imperatives,” Mauskar said, referring to the India-US statement on climate change.
The process has already begun in India, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar explained during his briefing in Washington. It will require the Union government to ensure that laws pertaining to environment, forests and energy are equipped with provisions to implement the various provisions of the Paris agreement.
A current Indian negotiator also noted the complexity that lies ahead in operationalising the Paris agreement. The crucial rules for transparency, reporting and verification under the Paris agreement and many other issues are yet to be negotiated in detail. These negotiations are to now take place between all 196 member countries of the over-arching UN climate convention. If the Paris agreement comes into force before these rules are finalised, then only those countries which join the pact would have the right to negotiate the rules. The others would be only observers — a clear disadvantage to developing countries with disparate capacities to come on board in time.
An option has been floated to bring the Paris agreement into force, permitting Obama to claim it as his legacy, and then allow all the 196 countries to negotiate the rules by putting the agreement in a technical suspension. But many developing countries, including India, are unsure of the consequence and worth of such an exercise, only to allow Obama his legacy gift.
“Do we want to sign an agreement we don’t know the full contours of? Do we want to be stuck in a situation where allied developing countries are not sitting on the table to negotiate these rules? These are questions we must address before we decide to ratify the agreement,” the Indian negotiator said.
Full story
2) Is China Having Second Thoughts About Paris Deal?
Bloomberg, 6 June 2016
China said the U.S. should do more to help developing nations to cope with climate change and bring the Paris deal on greenhouse gases into force, raising an issue that has divided the main presidential contenders.
Speaking in Beijing, one of China’s top climate envoys also praised the U.S. for its efforts to rein in emissions damaging the Earth’s atmosphere and noted that both countries worked together to seal the agreement in Paris in December.
“I believe the U.S. government can do better," in particular by transferring advanced technologies to help developing countries and providing funds to improve their capabilities in tackling climate change and extreme weathers, Xie Zhenhua, China’s special representative on climate change, said in a briefing on Monday.
“As the largest developed country in the world, the U.S. has done a lot in climate change and needs to be recognized. But at the same time, of course, there are a lot more work to do.”
Full story
3) Paris Climate Deal Vulnerable To A Trump Presidency
Financial Times, 29 May 2016
Barney Jopson and Pilita Clark
Donald Trump is sowing doubt over the Paris climate change pact as his hostility towards the deal and the growing swagger of his campaign focus attention on how he could undermine it as president.
The Republican candidate last week vowed to “cancel” the painstakingly negotiated agreement, a threat experts said was unrealistic. But his comments put a spotlight on its slow ratification and weak spots in President Barack Obama’s climate legacy.
While Mr Trump could not single-handedly scrap the agreement — which Washington and Beijing had rallied more than 190 countries to join — he could withdraw the US, the second largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, or block the action needed to cut emissions to the levels promised by Mr Obama.
But if Mr Trump used the presidency to cast doubt on the need for climate action, he could weaken the resolve of other leaders sceptical about the deal.

Attacks on the Paris agreement could occur at three different levels under a Trump presidency.
No single country can “cancel” the deal because it would require each of the nearly 200 nations that negotiated it to agree to abandon it. Once the agreement is in force it is also impossible for a country to withdraw overnight…
The Paris accord cannot take effect until it is formally ratified or joined by 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global emissions. So far, only 17 countries representing 0.04 per cent of emissions have ratified it.
China and the US have said they plan to join this year but they account for only about 40 per cent of emissions. Even under the most optimistic scenarios, the agreement may not start until 2018.
Full story
4) EU May Delay Paris Ratification Until 2030 Burden Sharing Is Agreed
Climate Home, 10 June 2016
Megan Darby
The Brussels bureaucracy made its first step towards ratifying the Paris climate agreement on Friday.
In a nudge to national governments, the European Commission published a draft motion for the Council of leaders to consider.
With the US and China promising to join the pact in 2016 and India not far behind, the pressure is on for the EU to keep up. […]
No timeline has been agreed, however. Lawyers are still debating whether the EU can ratify before each member state has its laws in place.
France and Hungary have completed their parliamentary processes. Brussels sources say others including Sweden, Portugal and Austria are prepared to do the same this year.
Bulgaria, Czechia and Croatia are among those unwilling to formally endorse the deal before the bloc’s 2030 carbon target has been divided up. That process kicks off next month and is due to be finalised in late 2017.
Full story
5) David Whitehouse: Pacific Stalagmites Cast Doubt On Climate Models And Projections
Global Warming Policy Forum, 10 June 2016
There are many who will not like this recent paper published in Nature Communications on principle as it talks of the hiatus in global temperatures for the past 20 years or so, that the Little Ice Age was global in extent, and that climate models cannot account for the observations we already have let alone make adequate predictions about what will happen in the future. 
Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 12.11.30
Alena Kimbrough in Liang Luar cave on Flores
Click on image to enlarge

It also makes what has happened in the past 50 years seem a little less unusual. This is however an interesting paper that deserves wide consideration, but as it doesn’t tow what some regard as a “party-line” it will probably get few mentions in the media.

Researchers working at the Australian National University Research School of Earth Sciences have discovered century-scale patterns in Pacific rainfall and temperature, and linked them with global climate changes in the past 2000 years.

These past El Niño (ENSO) oscillations in the Pacific Ocean may have amplified global climate fluctuations for hundreds of years at a time. Member of the team Alena Kimbrough says, “We’ve shown ENSO is an important part of the climate system that has influenced global temperatures and rainfall over the past millennium…Our findings, together with climate model simulations, highlight the likelihood that century-scale variations in tropical Pacific climate modes can significantly modulate radiatively forced shifts in global temperature.”

The team measured trace elements and stable isotopes in stalagmites from the Indonesian island of Flores and used them to reconstruct ancient rainfall, comparing them to records from East Asia and the central-eastern equatorial Pacific. They found that northern hemisphere warming and droughts between the years 950 and 1250 corresponded to an El Niño-like state in the Pacific, which switched to a La Niña-like pattern during a cold period between 1350 and 1900.

They found periods of predominantly El Niño-like patterns for several hundred years that alternate with La Niña patterns, impacting on global climate over the last 2000 years. Climate models cannot reproduce this.

“Our results highlight significant discrepancies between the proxy records and model simulations for the past millennium. Critically, these discrepancies coincide with century-scale anomalies in the strength of the Pacific Walker Circulation. We cannot rule out the possibility that some of the low-frequency Pacific variability was a forced response to variable solar intensity and changing teleconnections to higher latitudes that are not simulated by the models, or that non-climatic processes have influenced the proxies…the paleodata-model mismatch supports the possibility that unforced, low-frequency internal climate variability (that is difficult for models to simulate) was responsible for at least some of the global temperature change of the past millennium.”

The researchers say that the La Nina-like pattern is thought to be a factor contributing to the recent so-called ‘warming hiatus’ and earlier twentieth century cool and warm decades. “Therefore, our analysis of multicentury hydroclimate variability suggests that projections of tropical rainfall patterns, and global temperature extremes, will remain uncertain until paleoclimate records and models consistently capture the lower-frequency variability, and associated feedbacks, in the tropical Pacific.” Lead author Dr Michael Griffiths from William Paterson University, in the United States, added, “Until we can model this lower-frequency behaviour in the tropical Pacific, one can only speculate on how the warming will play out over the next few decades.”

Thus we have another natural climatic change mechanism that is relevant to how we assess the climatic changes that have occurred in the past century and in recent decades.


The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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