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L’accord de Paris

Executive explains the agreement to reduce global warming

by Jeremy Arbid

The recent Paris Agreement is a departure in form and substance from previous climate change accords; it calls for a bottom-up approach to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Unlike the 1997 Kyoto Protocol — a bifurcated approach that legally bound developed countries to reduce their emissions — the Paris accord removes the distinction between developed and developing countries, allocating responsibility, for the most part, to the local level.

At Kyoto developed countries were allotted a target to reduce their emissions, but developing countries like China or Mexico (Lebanon too) were given no target and allowed to let their emissions increase at will. Developed countries with emission reduction targets were meant to ratify the Kyoto Protocol into law, but the United States — then the world’s largest emitter — declined to do so. For much of the 2000s, the agreement was suspended and climate change negotiations ground to a halt.

Then came the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that saw developed countries and the largest developing countries agree to reduce emissions, but not in a legally binding agreement. What had carried over from Kyoto to Copenhagen was a clean development mechanism for carbon trading. The carbon market aimed for cost effectiveness — a reduction of carbon emission per dollar invested. At Copenhagen the failure to fully articulate a legally binding treaty pushed the price of carbon into a global downspin, putting a halt to carbon trading as a mechanism to reduce emissions.

Not all was lost after Copenhagen. Part of what was agreed upon at the 2009 conference made its way into the Paris accord — financing. In Copenhagen there was limited transparency on the issue of funding developing countries; rich countries agreed to provide $100 billion annually starting in 2020 to help poorer countries invest in green technologies to reduce emissions. But in the years since Copenhagen, developed countries have largely held true to their promise: in October 2015 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a report showing that close to two-thirds of the required financing was already being supplied.

Targets for Lebanon

The Paris accord stepped away from requiring emission reductions to be legally binding, instead placing responsibility at the local level for reducing emissions through discretionary contributions. This effectively means that countries, such as Lebanon, will voluntarily phase out fossil fuel use.

Lebanon’s contribution to the Paris accord is laid out in its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). The INDC sets forth two targets: an unconditional target that Lebanon will contribute to reduce emissions, and a conditional target if Lebanon were to receive international support — mainly financing from the $100 billion yearly fund, but also technical knowhow and technology transfer.

Under a business-as-usual scenario — with no measures taken to reduce greenhouse gases — Lebanon’s emissions would rise to nearly 44,000 million tons CO2 equivalent by 2030. Lebanon, as a low emitter of greenhouse gases, set an economy-wide target because it does not specify which sector of the economy emission reduction must come from, thereby offering greater flexibility. The country will target a 15 percent reduction by 2030 — limiting a rise in greenhouse gases to 37,400 million tons CO2 equivalent — as unconditional, meaning that emissions can be reduced in the economy wherever it is easiest. Lebanon will also produce 15 percent of its power needs through renewables and will aim for a 3 percent reduction in power demand through energy efficiency measures.

Lebanon will set more aggressive targets if it receives financing from the international community. By 2030 the country will aim for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; renewables will also produce 20 percent of total power demand, while energy efficiency measures will aim to cut power demand by 10 percent. Targeting a 30 percent reduction would see Lebanon limiting the rise of its greenhouse gas emissions to just more than 30,800 million tons CO2 equivalent by 2030.

In 2010, Lebanon’s greenhouse gas emissions totaled 19,139.27 million tons CO2 equivalent, 0.04 percent of global emissions. By 2014, that proportion had risen to 0.07 percent of the global share. With countries voluntarily pledging to reduce the emissions they produce, it is not yet clear how Lebanon’s emissions might rank vis-a-vis other countries moving forward.

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Jeremy Arbid

Jeremy is Executive's former economics and policy editor.

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