Energy and Climate Policy Institute

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Enerzine 42. Paris Agreement, the start of a new green round
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Paris Agreement, the start of a new green round

On December 12, a new climate change agreement was made in Paris. Paris Agreement is noteworthy in that the frame of international climate regime was made in which the whole nations of the world will participate after 2020. Although ratification process is left for each country, it is expected that there is no problem for nations to submit signed agreement to U.N. from April 2016 for one year. This Agreement is can be considered a very important result of negotiations. On the other hand, it is also the result of eliminating the rooms for controversy by excluding many points of disputes from the agreement and adopting minimalism.

After COP21, numerous assessments on the Paris conference have been issued. Assessments differ from the optimism that the conference acquired an opportunity to save humanity and the earth, to the realism that it laid the ground of a new climate regime through future discussion of APA and subsequent negotiations, to the pessimism that Paris’s climate conference withdrew even further than United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) let alone Kyoto Protocol. 

The opinion of the optimists is like this; Paris Agreement is a life-saver under the circumstances where negotiations of post-Kyoto Protocol virtually failed which aimed to establish climate regime after 2013. In addition, it is a progress in that not only the advanced countries but all the countries participated and that it has the advantage of gradually inducing active measures of each country by prescribing Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), not mandatory allocation of reduction goals for countries.

Though the position of realism is similar to that of optimism, it takes more cautious stance. It assesses that Paris Agreement drew a rough sketch of new climate regime in that details have to be discussed in subsequent negotiations. The realists note that it is difficult to expect any significant action to be taken in the remaining 5 years of Kyoto Protocol as instability of legal system continues under the situation that the 2nd period of protocol (2013~2020) has not officially gone into effect, and there have been no decisions made for upward adjustment of reduction goal.

Pessimists criticize that Paris Agreement "failed" after repeated retreats or is committing a “fraud”. They see that although the sentences are included that limit the rise of average temperature of earth to 1.5 degrees compared with that before Industrialization, it is difficult to find genuineness in them. As the result of collective calculation of first INDC until 2030, it is expected that the temperature will rise at least 2.7 degrees. Pessimists predict that it is difficult to achieve even 2-degree goal, not to mention 1.5 degrees through U.N. verification every five years from 2023 and stocktaking.

They maintain that global temperature already rose 0.85 degrees and considering greenhouse effect of the emitted carbon dioxide, the temperature rise of 1 degree is merely a matter of time. If 'politics of 1.5 degrees' is to produce not only symbolic meaning but also substantial results, a goal should be established to achieve carbon-free societies by 2050. Thus, paths need to be actively suggested to stop using fossil fuels. 

Still, the terms of 'carbon-free' and 'fossil fuels' were deleted or excluded in the articles of the final agreement and only the necessity of facilitation of 'renewable energy' in the developing or underdeveloped countries was mentioned in the preface. In addition, net-zero carbon – ‘balance between emission and absorption', not or halt of fossil fuel use - is scheduled to be attained between 2050 and 2100 (yet, we cannot be relieved that it is better than 'zero-fossil fuel by 2100' proclaimed by G7 in Bonn in June 2015).

Of course, 1.5-degree goal should be respected in that it is an alternative of critical camp that claims 2-degree goal is too conservative. Besides, as it is included in the agreement which is to be the basic document for the next ten-odd years, some part of it can be regarded as a considerable achievement. In this sense, it can work as a Trojan horse.

Yet, one should not have illusion for 1.5 degree and ‘Net-Zero’ carbon in that it contains massive offset instruments and designs global expansion of carbon market (SDM). What Climate Justice wants is carbon-free as ‘Actual Zero’.

In a word, demise of fossil fuels and 100% renewable energy were never decided in Paris. And there is not much Korean government will do within its border. Other than ratifying Paris Agreement in the National Assembly within the deadline, the only thing that Korean government can do is to take measures for the 'normalization' of Emission Trading System.

We also cannot but fall into the trap of 'Greenwash' if we do not pay attention to the pitfalls lurking hidden in each corner in this historic agreement before we say that Paris Agreement is a new hope. Although subsidies for fossil fuels amount to US$ 452 billion a year, the promise of yearly climate finance goal of US$ 100 billion has not been kept yet. The conference decided to adjust budget goal in as late as 2025 and advanced countries made it clear that they would never be 'any liability or compensation’ for 'the loss and damage' caused by climate change which takes place now.   
Fundamentally, climate change is caused not by greenhouse gases but by capital and power and the energy sources chosen by these two. Paris Agreement, however, has neither the will nor ability to control capital and power. As expected, 'red line' was not accepted which nonviolence and non-obedience movement of climate justice camp that tried to boycott Paris Conference intended to keep. The logic that climate agreement is peace and security agreement was helpless in the face of reality.

What is shedding a bright light, however, is the fact that Paris was not as disappointing as Copenhagen. As failure was predicted, even 'Climate Strike' was convincing and now, as a momentum with Paris Conference, various fronts which show that a different world is feasible are even more important. 

In Paris, voices of international civil society was unified (at least ostensibly) to the degree that the voices seemed to have converged into climate justice (although, according to Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (2012), competitive models such as 'Green Capitalism', 'Social-Liberal Green New Deal' and 'Green Socialism' are in front of us). Also, serious discussions on energy democracy (localization and communalization), energy citizenship, ecological transition and escape from growth were conducted more than ever and many cases were actively introduced which provided inspiration for many people. What lies for us to do is not the post assessment whether Paris Agreement is a turning point in response to climate change but 'immediate' practice for just transition.   

Deputy Director
Lee, Jung-pil /

* This article is written in Korean journal <Redian>(2015.12.22) by Lee, Jung-pil and translated into English by Cho, Bo-young.

10-year Fight of Miryang

On December 26, 2015, a Cultural Festival was held in Miryang in commemoration of 10th year anniversary of the fight against the building of power transmission towers in Miryang region. Residents of Miryang invited citizens in solidarity all over the country for exactly 10-year anniversary from the start of the fight. Before the event, Miryang Struggle Committee published 'Whitepaper on the fight against the building of power transmission towers in Miryang region' and photographers who covered Miryang published 'Photobook on Miryang fight.'

As the government and Korea Electric Power Corporation(KEPCO) unilaterally decided on and pressed forward the construction of 'Sin Gori-North Gyeongnam 765kV Transmission line', residents of Miryang suddenly lost their homes and foundation of life by the power transmission towers. The conflict was the worst case caused by centralized electrical system in Korea and administrations focusing only on efficiency.

"No one knew that the fight would last as long as ten years. For the last decade, two elderly committed suicide and, according to the statistics of National Police Agency, a total of 383 residents were indicted and there were more than 100 cases of emergency transportation of injured residents. This was the longest resistance ever fought by residents against a single national project.

We introduce here several photos on the 10-year struggle with digital archiving page (Sorry, that is only Korean)


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