Paris Climate Agreement

Paris Climate Agreement

Paris climate agreement determines the vector of development of Russian climate regulation (details in the article via the link).

The origins of international climate regulation

In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante August Arrhenius first proposed the idea that human combustion of fossil fuels could significantly increase the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and cause global warming. At that time, his statement went unnoticed.

In the 1930s, the average temperature in the United States and the North Atlantic region increased, and scientist Guy Stewart Callendar, taking into account Arrhenius’s conclusions, published the work “Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Temperature,” which is considered the world’s first climate model. This time the research was noticed, but faced disbelief from the scientific community due to Callendar’s lack of a doctoral degree. The scientist worked on his research until the late 1960s and was subsequently recognized as a significant figure in climate change studies.

In the 1950s, the wider scientific community publicly acknowledged that climate change was likely occurring, although the exact cause remained unclear. It was also found that Earth’s ozone layer was being depleted due to the impact of certain chemicals, leading to irreversible consequences for human health.

In 1985, the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was adopted and entered into force in 1988. The Convention was ratified by 197 countries. The main objectives of the Convention were:

  • Reduction of production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS)
  • Cooperation in research, observations, and information exchange
  • Promotion of the development and implementation of alternative technologies

The Vienna Convention served as the basis for the adoption in 1987 of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (entered into force in 1989), which establishes specific timelines and commitments to reduce ODS. As a result, almost 99 percent of banned ozone-depleting substances were phased out. The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol of 2016 provides for a phased reduction in the production and consumption of certain hydrofluorocarbons, which will help avoid warming by 0.3-0.5°C to 2100.

On June 23, 1988, NASA’s leading scientist, James Hansen, at hearings before the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, demonstrated through computer simulations that climate change was occurring to an extent sufficient to cause extreme weather events. With a 99 percent certainty, Hansen attributed the changes to human actions, making the first high-level call for international climate regulation.

The hearings initiated a global discussion among the public, scientists, and policymakers. The United Nations responded at the end of 1988 by creating the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to comprehensively and objectively assess available information on climate change, its causes, potential impacts, and response strategies.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

A significant milestone was the Earth Summit (UNCED) in June 1992, attended by representatives from 179 countries. Climate change was on the agenda, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was created and signed.

The document aimed to recognize climate change as a global problem and, within the framework of international climate regulation, to call on countries to take action to stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. Initially, only developed countries were obliged to reduce emissions, considering their historical responsibility and resources. Developing countries participated voluntarily.

The UNFCCC was ratified only in 1994. It is important to note that even when ratified by countries, the commitments were voluntary. Nevertheless, these were the first joint actions on international climate regulation.

The Kyoto Protocol

In December 1997, countries signed the first extension to the Convention, called the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol was ratified by 192 countries in February 2005. The goal was to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, fluorinated gases (SF6, HFCs, PFCs) by developed countries by an average of 5 percent from 2008 to 2012 compared to 1990 levels.

In 2012, the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, under which participants committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 18 percent from 1990 levels over an eight-year period from 2013 to 2020. This amendment entered into force on December 31, 2020, with a significantly reduced number of participants compared to the first period. Signatory countries to the Kyoto Protocol had legal obligations, so they were reluctant to join the initiative in the second more ambitious period.

Protocol to assist countries in achieving their greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by market mechanisms:

International Emissions Trading

Parties with obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (listed in Annex I) set targets for limiting or reducing emissions. These targets are expressed as the volume of Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) for the commitment period. If a country met its commitments, it could sell excess AAUs to another country that exceeded its targets.

Clean Development Mechanism

The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allowed a country with emission reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (listed in Annex I) to undertake emission reduction projects in developing countries. Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) generated by these projects could be used by the developed country to meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations.

Joint Implementation

Joint Implementation mechanism allowed a country with emission reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol (listed in Annex I) to receive Emission Reduction Units (ERUs) from a project that reduces or eliminates emissions in another Annex I country and count them towards its target.

To finance adaptation projects and programs in developing countries that are Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, the Adaptation Fund was established in 2001. During the first commitment period, the Fund was primarily financed from a portion of the proceeds from CDM activities. In the second commitment period, financing also included 2 percent of the revenue from International Emissions Trading and Joint Implementation.

As an alternative to the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms, voluntary standards gained popularity, particularly the Gold Standard and the Verified Carbon Standard. These standards were aimed at voluntary commitments by companies, and since this activity was not legislatively regulated, parties had greater freedom in implementing climate projects and using carbon credits.

Paris Climate Agreement

In 2015, to ensure compliance with countries’ commitments after the end of the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement was concluded and ratified by 190 countries a year later. The period of initial commitments began in 2020 with reviews of results every five years. The Agreement sets the following goals:

a) To hold the increase in global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

b) To increase the ability to adapt to adverse climate impacts and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development in a manner that does not threaten food production.

c) To align financial flows with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

The obligation to reduce emissions is imposed on all parties to the Agreement—both developing and developed countries. Countries set their own targets corresponding to their level of development and technological progress.

The Paris Agreement differs from the Kyoto Protocol in that the commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are voluntary. There is only a legal obligation to track greenhouse gas emissions and report on the results.

At COP 26 in Glasgow, two types of market mechanisms were proposed to assist countries in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement:

Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement provides for the trading of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOs) based on agreements concluded between countries and under conditions determined by them.

The mechanism of Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement is already operational; countries conclude agreements on the implementation of climate projects, and the first ITMOs are issued and credited.

Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement envisages the creation of a global carbon market under the auspices of the UN and the supervision of the Article 6.4 Supervisory Body.

To initiate a climate project, approval is required from both the country where it will be implemented and the Supervisory Body. As a result of the implementation of climate projects, emission reductions under Article 6.4 (A6.4ER) are planned to be issued. Buyers can be countries, companies, or individuals.

Two percent of A6.4ER is planned to be centrally retired for overall mitigation in global emissions (OMGE), and 5 percent of A6.4ER is planned to be directed to the Adaptation Fund for subsequent sale (share of proceeds, or SOP).

To launch the mechanism of Article 6.4, agreement will be required on methodologies, mechanisms for the removing of greenhouse gases, terms for monitoring and assessing the risks of greenhouse gas return to the atmosphere, sustainable development instruments, and dispute resolution procedures.

Participation of the Russian Federation in the Paris Climate Agreement

Russian Federation is a party to the UNFCCC (Federal Law № 34-FZ of November 4, 1994 “On Ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”), the Kyoto Protocol (Federal Law № 128-FZ of November 4, 2004 “On Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”), and the Paris Agreement (Government Resolution № 1228 of September 21, 2019 “On the Adoption of the Paris Agreement”). The country is included in Annex I as a Party undergoing the transition to a market economy. During the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the Russian Federation ensured compliance with obligations to stabilize emissions at 1990 levels.

Additionally, the Russian Federation participated in Joint Implementation Mechanisms.

In 2015, Russia submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) outlining the limitation of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to 70-75% of 1990 levels by 2030, provided the maximum possible absorption capacity of forests is taken into account.

In 2020, the Russian Federation declared its first Nationally Determined Contribution to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The contribution aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 70% below 1990 levels by 2030, taking into account the maximum possible absorption capacity of forests and other ecosystems, and ensuring sustainable and balanced socio-economic development of the Russian Federation.