Is Paris Agreement in peril?

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

12 April 2017


Apparent disagreement at the recent G7 meeting in Italy over further sanctions on Russia in connection with events in Syria have been widely reported on TV and in print. What has received far less attention is another dispute over a planned communique intended to be a confirmation of the group’s commitment to the Paris COP21 Agreement on climate change. As is well known the Paris Agreement places a voluntary obligation on signature states to set reduction targets for CO2 emissions and is used as a reason behind much of the most recent regulation and debate on the shipping industry’s own emissions. The agreement was signed last September by US President Obama and China’s President Xi in a joint ceremony. However, two months later, Donald Trump won the US presidential election after campaigning against the agreement. That has not yet happened and it is believed that some of his team would prefer to stay in the agreement and influence its progress from within. According to the US news organisation Politico there was a fierce debate over whether a commitment to Paris should be made and what any document should include. Apparently, agreement was impossible and no document was issued. Carlo Calenda, Italy’s economic development minister and the chair of the summit, instead released a written summary of the meeting, which noted that the delegation heads of every country but the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal. Last month at a G20 meeting of finance ministers, the US delegation insisted on removal of language calling on countries to help finance efforts to tackle climate change. It is anticipated that the US position on the Paris Agreement will be clarified by the end of next month. A US withdrawal or even a decision to remain in but to ignore any targets could well influence other countries to pull back on their own commitments. The first indication of what any new US policy towards shipping may come at MEPC 71 in early July. Under the previous administration, the US was a fervent supporter of CO2 reduction measures along with the EU. At the last MEPC meeting held in October last year before the US election took place, the IMO adopted its own MRV programme to begin next year under pressure from the EU which already has a system in place. It is unlikely that the US or other delegations would want to jettison the IMO’s MRV programme but it is also much less likely that it will support any monetary measures that may come about at a later date.