Paris Agreement and Environmental destruction debate by Harneel Aujla & Shweta Sharma

Paris Agreement and Environmental destruction debate

                                                                                  * Harneel Aujla & Shweta Sharma[1]

Introduction:

In recent years, the primary focus of the global environment has been on climate change and the related policy responses. Human-induced climate change has been related to the use of fossil fuels as the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most important of the greenhouse gases (GHGs), is a direct result of the combustion of such fuels. Increased greenhouse gas concentrations are raising the earth’s average temperature, influencing precipitation and some storm patterns as well as raising the sea level (World Nuclear Association. 2014).[2]It has become commonplace to worry about the conflict between international agreements to promote free trade and attempts to preserve the global environment.  Environmentalists question the value of trade rules that prohibit efforts to encourage environmental protection through trade restrictions, and those committed to free trade fear barriers to trade cloaked in environmental concern.[3]The division of world opinion on the certainty of climate change further adds to the woes of developing countries. Scientists all over the world have been acknowledging a temperature increase of the earth and attribute this aspect of global warming to fossil fuel burning by humans. However, what scientists debateover is the magnitude and speed of future climate change and hence its response pattern. One school of thought urges ‘rapid action’, whereas the other advocates the ‘wait and watch’ policy.[4]The uncertainties revolve around the following facts: whether greenhouse gases and aerosol concentrations increase, stay the same or decrease; how strongly the features of the climate (e.g. temperature, precipitation and sea level) respond to changes in GHG and aerosol concentrations, and how much the climate varies as a result of natural influences (e.g. from volcanic activity and changes in the intensity of the sun) and its internal variability (referring to random changes in the circulation of the atmosphere and oceans).”[5]The uncertainty of the exact nature or timing of the impacts means that a flexible and responsive approach to climate preparation will be needed.Although environment protection will benefit the future generations, and us, there are various arguments against the implementation of environment protection policies.[6]

Is it fair for the developing world?

The trade sanctions for environment protection certainly protect the environment to an immeasurable extent. However, the harm that the sanctions impose on some countries, especially in the developing world, cannot be ignored. The expected growth in basic industries foreshadows rapid increases in pollution and resource degradation unless developing countries take great care to control pollution and waste, to increase recycling and reuse, and to minimize hazardous wastes. These countries do not have the resources to industrialize now and then repair the damage later.Also, given the rapid pace of technological progress, chances of these countries having the time to do so seem rare. They can profit from the improvements in resource and environmental management being achieved in industrialized countries, and so avoid the need for expensive cleanups. Such technologies can also help them reduce ultimate costs and stretch scarce resources. And they can learn from the mistakes of developed countries.[7]

Most of the environmental sanctions are said to be holding back developing countries. Since this is seen as interference in their affairs, it also contributes to a greater divide between the first and third worlds. One school of thought also believes it could deliberate the attempt to stop possible economic competitors. After all, the USA and EU already put high tariffs (import taxes) on products made cheaply in developing countries (e.g. canned tomatoes, shoes), which could be sold in America or Europe. By limiting the development with sanctionsof profitable but polluting industries like steel or oil refineries, we are forcing nations to remain economically backward (U.N. document)

Human life or the environment?

Another argument presented against the imposition of sanctions is that taking care of millions of people who are starving is more important than saving natural resources, some of which are also renewable.It cannot be expected of developing nations to share the green concerns of developed countries when they are faced with dire poverty and a constant battle for survival.Obviously the world would be better if all nations stuck to strict environmental rules. The reality is that for many nations such rules are not in their interests. For example, closing China’s huge Capital Iron and Steelworks, a major source of pollution, would cost 40 000 jobs. The equal application of strict environmental policies would create huge barriers to economic progress, at a risk to political stability.[8]

 

Unemployment: Save a Logger, Kill an Owl.

The net impact of environmental protection on the economy and employment market is a highly controversial issue. The standard argument that environmental policies have negative economic effects can be summarized as follows; Businesses invest capital and create jobs to produce goods and services for a profit. Each firm seeks to minimize capital and operating expenses and to maximize sales and profits. As more environmental restrictions on production are enacted, the cost of production increases. This increase raises the price of the product and, depending on the product’s price elasticity, reduces its sales. Reduced sales decrease employment. When regional or international considerations are taken into account, it is argued, economic activities, pollution, and jobs are exported to those regions and nations with relatively lax environmental standards. Thus, environmental regulations and standards impose nonproductive expenses on the economy that reduce economic growth and eliminate jobs.[9]

Below are a few examples major regulations and a few sanctions have negatively impacted lives:

  • Protection of the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest has purportedly cost anywhere from 20,000 to 140,000 jobs Phillips Petroleum Company announced 1,350 layoffs in April 1992 and blamed environmental regulations.
  • The Chemical Council of New Jersey claimed in August 1992 that environmental regulations had cost the state 12,000 jobs in the chemical industry over the previous 10 years.
  • Local sugar growers in Florida claim that measures to protect the Everglades will cost 15,000 jobs.
  • The American Petroleum Institute blames environmental restrictions for the loss of 400,000 jobs during the 1980s.
  • The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association claims that increasing fuel economy standards will cost 300,000 jobs.
  • The 1992 closing of a polluting oil refinery in Wyoming cost 200 jobs. (Bezdek, R. H. (1993).

As developing countries, the most important task for these states will still be to develop rapidly under the guidance of the Scientific Outlook on Development, for some time. The difficulties of the country’s environmental protection lie in balancing the relationship between reform of regulation governing resources and the environment with the international competitiveness of the country’s industrial sector, in particular, the balance of the relationship between environmental protection and economic growth.However, another school of thought believes that sanctions are important if we need to protect and save the environment from further destruction. Also, there is no shortage of evidence that these sanctions can play an important role in an environmental protection strategy.  In some cases, domestic environmental protection is enabled by the assurance to domestic industries that they will not be disadvantaged by competition from those who do not have to undertake costly environmental regulation (DeSombre, 1995).  In other cases, states have been persuaded to join international environmental agreements by the prohibition of trade advantages to those outside of the agreement. [10]

Is cost benefit analysis for environment worth it?

Cost-benefit analysis involves the creation of artificial markets forthings like good health, long life,and clean air that is not bought and sold. It also involves the devaluation of future events through discounting.So described, the mindset of the cost-benefit analysisis likely to seem extremelyforeign.The translation of all good things in to monetary values and the devaluation of the environment and future are in consistent with the way many people view the Earth (Ackerman, F., & Heinzerling, L. 2002).

The costs of protecting human health and the environment through the use of pollution control devices and other approaches are, by their very nature, measured in dollars.Thus, at least in theory, the cost side of cost-benefit analysis is relatively straightforward in practices, we shall see, it is not quite that simple.[11]

The consideration of the costs of environmental protection is not unique to cost-benefit analysis. Development of environmental regulations has almost always involved consideration of economic costs, with or without formal cost-benefit techniques. What is unique to cost-benefit analysis but far more problematic is the other side of the balance, the monetary evaluation of the benefits of life, health, and nature itself.Consideringthat there are no natural prices for a healthy environment, cost-benefit analysis requires the creation of artificial ones. This is the hardest part of the process. Economists have been creating artificial prices for health and environment table benefits by studying what people would be actually willing to pay for them.[12]

Environmental Kuznets curve

Environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) proposes that there is an inverted U-shape relation between environmental degradation and income per capita, so that, eventually, growth reduces the environmental impact of economic activity. This concept is dependent on a model of the economy in which there is no feedback from the quality of the environment to production possibilities, and in which trade has a neutral effect on environmental degradation.[13]

The actual violation of these assumptions gives rise to fundamental problems in estimating the parameters of an EKC. There are several other econometric problems with estimates of the EKC, and reviews a number of empirical studies. The inference from some such EKC estimates that further development will reduce environmental degradation is dependent on the assumption that world per capita income is normally distributed when in fact median income is far below mean income. Stimulations combining EKC estimates from the literature with World Bank forecasts for economic growth for individual countries, aggregating over countries to derive the global impact. Within the horizon of the Bank’s forecast (2025) global emissions of SOI continue to increase. Forest loss stabilizes before the end of the period but tropical deforestation continues at a constant rate throughout the period.[14]

Major policy adjustments will be required to move the global economy toward a sustainable development path. It does not appear to us that the EKC approach has much to offer in the way of informing the choices arising for policy makers.

 

 

The Price of Destruction

Globally, forests are the most severely endangered lands, with special reference to our tropical forests and their abundant species. The near dissipation of our forests has exacerbated a crisis for both the timber industry and the various species, which rely on these forests. Also, the appropriation and management of reserve areas is of perennial interest, with a variety of interests and opportunities for citizen involvement.

Land is susceptible to various forms of pollution or chemical insults, some of which last a lot longer than other. Irrigational available land, either arable, pastoral or forest, is said to have been damaged by gradual toxin accumulation including pollution from non-point sources. Certain sources of land pollution that require control are the intensive and excessive fertilizer and pesticide application, run-off from intensive beef or dairy units, and effluents from mining and industrial activities.[15]

The global focus has been on pollution problems and in several countries the response has been rectification of pollution damage. Numerous instances, however, thrive of major pollution thatis causes of concern involving air, land, aquifers, seas and cities. A major air pollution problem, especially in urban environments, originates from vehicle emissions. Lead, hydrocarbons and other toxic chemicals are generated by heavy traffic in significant amounts that endangerthe flora and fauna along major highways .[16]

Migration

Another valid reason to impose sanctions is the large-scale migration due to environmental destruction and pollution. The UNHCR in the 1993 state of the world’s refugees identified four root causes of refugee flows. These were: political instability; economic tensions; ethnic conflict; and environmental degradation. The claim that environmental degradation was a root cause of refugee flows was a direct response to a growing number of researches positing a link between environmental degradation and population movement, and a recognition that the numbers of displaced persons internationally was much larger than indicated by the statistics on refugee flows.[17]

According to many researches, the number of people who have been displaced by environmental degradation is immense. Jacobson (1988) notes that, “environmental refugees have become the single largest class of dis- placed persons in the world.” Homer-Dixon further notes that environmental degradation is likely to produce “waves of environmental refugees that spill across borders with destabilizing effects” on domestic order and international relations. Speaking of displaced persons unaccounted for in official refugee figures, the Executive Director of UNEP at the time, Mustafa Tolba (1985), stated “these people are the millions fleeing the droughts of northern Africa, the victims of Bhopal and the thousands made homeless by the Mexico earth- quake. They are environmental refugees”[18]

Paris Climate Conference, 2015

In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, was held in Paris. France played the leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 was one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country.

The conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change, the text of which represented a consensus of the representatives of the 196 parties attending it.  According to the organizing committee at the outset of the talks, the expected key result was an agreement to set a goal of limiting global to less than 2 degrees Celsius (°C) compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century. In the adopted version of the Paris Agreement, the parties will also “pursue efforts to” limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. The 1.5 °C goal will require zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050, according to some scientists.[19] Prior to the conference, 146 national climate panels publicly presented draft national climate contributions (called “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions“, INDCs). These suggested commitments were estimated to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100. For example, the EU suggested INDC is a commitment to a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. The agreement establishes a “global stock take” which revisits the national goals to “update and enhance” them every five years beginning 2023. However, no detailed timetable or country-specific goals for emissions were incorporated into the Paris Agreement – as opposed to the previous Kyoto Protocol.A number of meetings took place in preparation for COP21, including the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 19 to 23 October 2015, which produced a draft agreement. [20]          

Conclusion

Thus, trade sanctions are favored to the extent that helps clean and protect the atmosphere along with helping countries develop. Trade sanctions are a lot more effective considering they cripple the economy and no country desires that. Also, military sanctions would not be preferred considering this issue is resolvable using trade sanctions and regulations. Furthermore, using military forces for environmental protection would only add on to the already existing crisis in the world. Military sanctions tend to only produce short-term impacts.  By using military forces, we in a way are forcing a society to change something they are not ready for, again using Jihad vs. McWorld.

Faced with the challenges of climate change, economic development and sustainability, the future of energy and environmental policies in of the world, especially developing countries has been an emerging issue. COP 21 can be considered a decent example of a move for sustainable development. Finally, 196 countries have come to an agreement regarding environment protection and climate change. The developing countries such as, India and China expressed their desire to contribute as much a possible; the amount that will help protect the environment and also not hinder their development progress. Thus, the most promising policy approaches would be those that capitalize on natural synergies between development priorities and climate protection, which simultaneously advance both these efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Student, State University of New York, Genesseo.

*University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Sector 14, Chandigarh.

[2] Climate Change- The Science, retrieved from http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/energy-and-the-environment/climate-change-the-science.aspx, accessed on 1st  March, 2016

[3] Elizabeth R. DeSombre,  The international journal of peace studies, environmental harm as economic subsidy: new perspectives on the feasibility of trade sanctions for environmental protection ,http://www.gmu.edu/programs/icar/ijps/vol4_1/desombre.htm, accessed on 1st March, 2016

[4] B. Sudhakara Reddy and Gaudenz B. Assenza, Climate change – a developing country  perspective, www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/, accessed on 3rd March, 2016

[5] ID

[6] Economic Development vs the Environment. (2014). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from http://debatewise.org/debates/2918-economic-development-vs-the-environment/

[7]UN Documents Gathering a body of global agreements , retrieved fromhttp://www.un-documents.net/ocf-08.htm, accessed on 4th March, 2016

[8] Global Policy Forum on Climate Change, retrieved fromhttps://www.globalpolicy.org/social-and-economic-policy/the-environment/climate-change.html, accessed on 4th March, 2016

[9] Bunyan Brant, Environmental Justice: Issues, Policies, and Solutions, Island Press, Washington D.C., 1995

[10] U.S.-China Relations: Current Tensions, Policy Choices, http://www.cfr.org/world/us-china-relations-current-tensions-policy-choices/p5041, accessed on 4th March, 2016.

[11] Frank Ackerman, Poisoned for Pennies: The Economics of Toxics and Precaution, Island Press, 2008

[12] Id

[13]David I. Stern, Michael s. Common and Edward b. Barbier , Economic Growth and Environmental Degradation: The Environmental Kuznets Curve and Sustainable Development,https://www.researchgate.net/publication/4979089_’Economic_Growth_and_Environmental_Degradation_The_Environmental_Kuznets_Curve_and_Sustainable_Development‘, accessed on 5th March, 2016

[14]Economic Growth and Environmental Degradation,http://www.polarhestar.is/715583/economic_g__rowth_and_environmental_degradation_the_environmental_kuznets_curve_and_sustainable_development/a5qd14qhp7ts, Accessed on 5th March, 2016

[15] Stanley Johnson, UNEP: The First 40 Years, www.unep.org/pdf/40thbook.pdf, Accessed on 5th March, 2016.

[16] Wagner, J. L. (2013). The Forest for the Trees: The Benefits of the Trees of Forest Park. Confluence (2150-2633), 38-49.

[17] Susan F. Martin, Global migration trends and asylum, www.unhcr.org/3af66ccc4.pdf, Accessed on 6th March, 2016.

[18] Lonergan Steve.The Role of Environmental Degradation in Population Displacement. Environmental Change and Security Project Report, Issue 4 (Spring 1998): 5-15

[19]http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/, retrieved on 23rd feb, 2016.

[20] “Bonn Climate Change Conference – October 2015”. unfccc.int. Retrieved on 23rd feb, 2016.

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