6 October 2016, The Conversation, Paris climate agreement comes into force: now time for Australia to step up. The Paris climate agreement is set to enter into force next month after the European Union and Canada ratified the agreement overnight. The agreement, reached last December, required ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for 55% of global emissions to become operational.
Why has ratification been so quick? The optimists would point to this as evidence of mounting international momentum. A truly global agreement and joint ratification by China and the US have reinvigorated international efforts. India, Canada and the EU have followed shortly after the US and China. Canada also recently announced a domestic carbon tax of C$10. Ratification is not action per se, though, and it’s difficult to directly link the domestic actions of Canada and others to Paris. The more realistic explanation for the ratification landslide is less inspiring. The Paris Agreement is so weak in terms of legal obligations that countries have little reason not to ratify it. The legal obligations of the Paris Agreement are sparse and procedural. Countries are bound to submit increasingly stringent pledges every five years. Yet they are not obliged to achieve them.
What about Australian ratification? Australia has yet to ratify the Paris Agreement, but will likely do so soon. Australian ratification of international treaties is done through the executive, not the parliament. Prime Minister Turnbull makes the final decision as to whether Australia will ratify the Paris Agreement. Turnbull will not act alone; his decision will be advised by cabinet and the report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT). This is a cross-party committee made up of members from the Senate and the House of Representatives. JSCOT is considering the Paris Agreement and will hold its final public briefing in Melbourne today. Shortly thereafter it will report back to parliament. Given that Paris implies few obligations, Australia will likely ratify the agreement before the end of the year. Not doing so would unnecessarily risk Australia’s already tattered reputation on climate change. Yet there are also fears that Australia risks embarrassment by ratifying and then missing its first pledge.
Target troubles: Currently, Australia has made an intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to reduce emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2030. If Australia joins the Paris Agreement this would likely become our first pledge under the deal. But existing modelling suggests we will significantly overshoot this target.Climate Action Tracker estimates that Australia is instead on track to increase emissions above 27% on 2005 levels by 2030 (this equates to 61% above 1990 levels). They note: “Australia stands out as having the largest relative gap between current policy projections for 2030 and the INDC target.” Read More here