Stockholm (NordSIP) – A report, published in the magazine Nature on February 18, argues that the goals of the Paris Agreement are unlikely to be met. According to the report, unrealistic plans, an emphasis on voluntarism and the delay in the integration of scientific knowledge into land management policies undermine the feasibility of the agreement.
According to the study, by researchers from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the University of Edinburgh, the source of the problem can be traced to the commitments made towards achieving global temperature increases of no more than 1.5°C to 2°C. Under the Paris Agreement, each country developed a plan of action, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The NDCs had a strong emphasis on land management, including interventions to prevent further deforestation, reforestation commitments, reduction of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and the widespread adoption of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. However, “individual countries’ plans to accomplish these changes remain vague, almost certainly insufficient and unlikely to be implemented in full,” says the article.
Implementation of the NDCs has been disappointing despite ambitious commitments. Following a 70% decrease in deforestation rates between 2005 and 2013, Brazil committed to making even further decreases. Instead, there was a 29% increase in deforestation between 2015 and 2016. Historically, Brazil has accounted for over half of the global emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). In the same period deforestation also increased by 44% in Colombia due to the demobilisation of the FARC rebel group. The problem is not confined to Latin America. “The rates of primary forest loss in the Congo and Indonesia are now 1.5 and 3 times the rate in Brazil,” according to the authors. In China, plans include an increase in forest stocks by 40 million hectares between 2009 and 2020. However, the study suggests much of this expansion in forest land was expected to be achieved by encouraging citizens to plant trees.
Another problem of the agreement identified by the study is its voluntary nature, which “means that NDCs are not required to be demonstrably achievable, and in most cases have no defined plan of implementation even where sufficient political will and capacity exist.” This ambiguity makes them “highly vulnerable to the complex, short-term and cyclical nature of the policy-making process, which involves the repeated assessment of problems, opportunities and potential interventions (all of which are subject to conflicts between different interests) before final implementation can occur.”
The problem is exaggerated by the slow pace of adoption of innovations in land-use, particularly in countries like the USA, China and India, where voluntary actions play an essential role in proposed changes to land use. “Given the urgent need for climate change mitigation, there are strong arguments to be made for international climate policy to rely on binding or regulatory commitments that either take a leading role in economic policies or supersede them entirely”, the study argues.
All these hurdles conspire to undermine Paris Agreement so that the “achievement of the 1.5 °C (or even a 2 °C) goal is highly unlikely”, the study concludes.
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