Leadership is a series of behaviors rather than a role for heroes

– Margaret Wheatley

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03 Dec 2017 10:24

On December 21, 2015 during the 21th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris the new international Climate Agreement that replaced the Kyoto protocol was accepted. On the 12 pages of the Agreement the Parties promised to mitigate carbon emissions as soon as possible as well as to do their uttermost to keep global warming at the level of +2°C till the end of the ХХІ century, and in an ideal scenario average temperature increase should not surpass 1.5 degree. Ukraine undertook the new obligations on mitigation of the greenhouse gases emissions that entail the necessity to modernize manufacturing and energetic sector that are the greatest sources of greenhouse gases emissions. However the critical eye of the newly selected American president on the Climate Agreement arouses concern among the global community. Can the Climate Agreement turn into the declaration of noble intentions based on the good will of its Parties? What will the Paris initiative bring for Ukraine and what ecological dividends our country can get?

What is the difference between the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol?In year 2021 the Paris Agreement shall replace the Kyoto Protocol which until recently has been the unified international agreement defining environmental discipline for the developed countries of the world and obliging them to mitigate greenhouse gases emissions (hereinafter – GG). Though the Kyoto Protocol had effect of the international agreement and its text contained description of different types of sanctions against the Parties violators, in practice the sanctions have never been applied. Besides that the United States of America that produce 20% of the global GG emissions do not ratify the Kyoto Protocol at all, and Canada (2% of the global GG emissions) officially withdrawn form it in 2012. So as experience has shown setting of limits, sanctions or any other punitive measures in such agreements have no sense. Performance motivation and creation of the appropriate conditions should be the fundamental principles. That is why the developers of the Paris Agreement decided to cancel any sanctions at all, so it is up to every country to define the volume of GG emissions mitigation on its own and to fulfill it step by step. Very the absence of the punishment and flexibility of the obligations fulfillment made this Agreement so attractive for many countries of the world.

The most debating question of the Kyoto Protocol was the international trading with GG emission quotas or “air trading” as it was fairly called by the experts. For the moment this instrument of the environmental politics discredited itself and in certain countries even became the basis for corruptive abuses and different frauds. Quotas trading meant that each country obtained a permit for certain volume of polluting emissions. If the country manages to reduce them it can sale the “unutilized emissions” to another country that correspondingly exceeded the GG emissions quota. The Paris Agreement made a revolutionary step in this direction – it canceled international quotas trading. In fact, quotas trading is a “bussiness as usual” and does no good for the climate of the planet.

Further the Kyoto Protocol contained the stable list of the countries with their fixed obligations on reduction or maintaining of the GG emissions on the certain level irrespective of outer and inner factors (for example natural disasters, financial crisis, military operations), the Paris Agreement proposes a flexible approach and a perspective of revaluation of each country’s possibilities regarding emissions reduction. There is no doubt that proposed flexibility and individual approach to determination of obligations in the Agreement became an additional reason for its signing.

And finally the most contradictory element of the Kyoto Protocol or specifically the pure nonsense was the fact that the countries that are fast progressing and accordingly are the greatest destroyers of the ozone layer of the planet, in particular India and China, had no obligations on emissions reduction and continued to develop without introduction of any green technologies. Instead of this the Paris Agreement provides that its Parties are to reduce GG emissions irrespective of economic status, economics development level, etc.

Environmental policy of Trump or the Paris Climate Agreement at riskToday the newly selected American president demonstrates the willingness to turn the energy policy of the USA through 180 degrees by refusing from the number of programs initiated by Barack Obama’s team. In particular Donald Trump promised to his electorate to revive coal industry of the country by means of opening mines and creating new working places as well as to increase slate oil and gas production. More than that, the American leader wants to bring production facilities back from abroad and it will result in increase of the USA requirement of energy resources. Intention to reload energy policy of the country can be observed already in the first working initiatives. Recently D. Trump proposed to close 17 programs financed from the federal budget, including 5 programs closely connected with the research in the energy field, in particular, regarding climate changes, implementation of the initiatives on energy saving, investigations of alternative energy sources, etc.

During the election campaign Trump promised to withdraw from the Paris Agreement within 100 first days of his presidency and to focus on obtaining of the energy independence and self-sufficiency of America. More than that, the leader of the republicans promised to stop the financing of the UNO programs related to the global warming. For certain such radical changes of the Washington energy policy put at threat implementation of the principles of the Paris Agreement and the future of the alternative energy in whole. There is no secret that American research centers are the leaders in certain directions of alternative energy so termination/reduction of their financing will slowdown the global development of renewable energy. Withdrawal of USA from the Paris Climate Agreement will mean in fact cancellation of the global lobbying of the renewable energy. In particular the American leader many times accentuated that wind energy is not profitable energy production and has low economic benefit, and solar energy (it takes about 30 years in average its projects to pay back) is not developed enough for the mass use.

“Taking the leadership role of USA away would create a vacuum,” said the professor of the Grantham Research Institute Samuel Frankhauser. "The good news, if there is good news, is that leaving the Paris Agreement is quite a lot more difficult than ever joining it.” 

For sure none of the countries can cancel the Paris Climate Agreement but if the USA withdraw from it or refuse from some inner means of GG emissions reduction, it will have a disastrous impact on the climate agreement.

Will the climate diplomacy become a trend of 2017 for Ukraine?According to UNO for the current moment the Paris Climate Agreement is already ratified by 127 out of 194 countries (Read more). Ukraine signed the Agreement on April 22, 2016 and ratified it on July 14 of the same year.

But it should be accentuated that the Ukrainian Party also has certain international obligations on environmental protection. The question of adaptation to climate changes became especially important in the context of EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. In particular the Article 365 provides that cooperation of the Parties involves the issue of the climate change policy development and implementation. The Association Agreement opened the way for reformation and creation of new standards for the energy and environmental policies of our country. Particularly the document determines 8 directions that are the major obligations on environment protection such as air quality, water quality and water resources management; environmental protection; industrial pollution and technogenic threats; climate change and ozone layer protection; genetically modified organisms.

In fact the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and the Paris Climate Agreement have a common denominator, - change of the climate and ozone layer protection. So within the frame of the Agreement the Ukrainian Party undertook to implement the provisions of the EU Directive №2003-87 establishing a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading (on the inner, i.e. national level), EU Regulation №842-2006 on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases, as well of the EU Regulation №2037-2000 on substances that deplete the ozone layer. However for today fulfillment of these obligations proceeds very slowly. According to the monitoring performed by the Ukrainian Center of the European Policy as of 1.11.2016 none of the obligations within the “Environment” sector is fulfilled, 6 are in progress and there are also 8 provisions (including both climate change and ozone layer protection) that unfortunately are not even adapted yet.

The Paris Climate Agreement provides for Ukraine more clear criteria of global responsibilities. So first of all Ukraine should define its obligations on GG emissions level and review them once per 5 years. Our country set a goal in year 2030 to keep the volume of GG emissions at the level of 60% of the volume of such emissions in year 1990, as well as to increase the volume of alternative sources on energy balance.

Within the frame of the Paris Climate Agreement our country has no financial obligations but in the future some expenses from the state budget will be required for preparation of the reporting documents. In addition Ukraine is obliged on a regular basis to provide the information on the sources of anthropogenic emissions and absorption by the greenhouse gas sinks, as well as the information required for tracking of progress in declared obligations on reduction of GG emissions and certain climate information for conduction of investigations. In particular, the first global summarizing of the Climate Agreement performance is scheduled for year 2023 and then every five years the conference of the Parties of the Agreement will be hold.

Due to joining to the Paris Climate Agreement Ukraine has a chance to obtain an access to additional financial and technological support. The developed countries have an intention to devote annually, starting from the year 2020, i.e. after the termination of the Kyoto Protocol, not less than 100 billion of USD to developing countries for the climate changes control. But the Paris Agreement has changed the rules. Within the frame of the Kyoto Protocol our country, by means of quota trading, during the period from 2009 to 2012 years had obtained more than 1.2 billion EUR for realization of the environmental projects, but today Ukraine needs to change its approach and to play by the new rules. Our country has to propose new strategic vision of the problem solving, to develop the projects on GG emissions reduction based on the national interests and economic efficiency. Only after fulfillment of these terms we can count on the financial and technological support within the frame of the Paris Climate Agreement.