Gustav Boethius
Today's Expert
Gustav Boethius
Topic: The implications of the Paris Agreement for the pollution-related multilateral environmental agreements
Gustav Boethius holds a BSc and an MSc in Chemical Physics, as well an MSc in International Relations with a focus on energy security and climate politics....
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Number of questions: [2]
Posted on 26/02/2017 21:33:06
Hi Gustav, which pollution-related multilateral environmental agreement do you think will be most impacted by the Paris Agreement, and why? Also, how do you see the SDGs impacting these agreements?
Ian Richards (from Switzerland)
Dear Ian,

In order to effectively mitigate climate change, greenhouse gas emissions need to be significantly reduced. In the meantime, the global economy needs energy and therefore energy generation from fossil-fuels need to be replaced by renewable energy sources, electricity grids need to be significantly expanded to deal with local fluctuations in RE energy production and energy storage technologies need to be deployed at a large scale across households and industries. Moreover, electric mobility needs to replace fossil-fuel based modes of transport. In summary, a complete redesign of the global energy system needs to happen in order to turn the global economy from a brown into a green one.

It is very difficult to say which pollution-related multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) will be the most affected by the Paris Agreement as it depends on the national context in which the Paris Agreement- and MEA-related work takes place and how this work is managed and coordinated.

For instance, the actions described above to green the energy system will have a positive impact on global air pollution (which to a large degree comes from fossil fuel-based applications) but they will also create a metals-heavy situation. Car and household batteries, efficient lighting, solar panels, grid technologies all contain hazardous metallic substances that, unless managed in an environmentally sound manner, can have a negative environmental impact and will above all create issues concerning waste. The Paris Agreement and the countries Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that outline their climate work therefore have a significant overlap with the work conducted under the chemicals and waste MEAs, and in particular the Basel and Stockholm Conventions, as well as the Minamata Convention and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). But the final chemicals/waste impact of the climate work depends on how well a country manages these overlaps.

Ozone is another interesting example. The Kigali amendment adopted for the Montreal Protocol is essentially way of creating complementarities between the ozone and climate-related MEAs as the phase-out of HFCs has significant climate benefits. Moreover, the Kigali meeting also adopted a decision on the energy efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration appliances, creating yet another pathway in which Montreal action can have climate benefits. However, in the context of their climate work countries may be faces with choices between energy efficient technologies that have negative ozone impacts, and vice versa. Moreover, methods of energy storage using refrigeration technologies may also come with ozone risks that need to be properly managed in the Paris Agreement planning context. Therefore, a need to streamline the climate-MEA work also exists in the ozone context.

I would like to emphasise that, while environmental risks should not be ranked per se, climate change is today’s most significant environmental threat. Therefore, any work done to streamline climate work with other MEAs must not result in the watering down of the Paris Agreement and the NDCs. Instead, the overlap between the Paris Agreement and the other MEAs should been seen as an enormous opportunity for the development of coherent environmental policies at the national level, as well as for enhancing structures at the international level. From now on, MEA work takes place in the post-Paris world with the NDCs in the national backdrop, so the there is a need to coordinate. There is a great political momentum behind climate action and the Paris Agreement, and therefore there should be scope to refine and enhance this work to achieve even broader environmental benefits.

Finally, in terms of the SDGs, the Paris Agreement and the MEAs all work towards fulfilling the SGDs in different ways. The issue of concern here is the extent to which complementarities between the MEAs can be achieved so that they can work towards the SGDs more effectively.

Kind regards,
Gustav

Posted on 25/02/2017 23:17:26
Hello. I would like to know why the links between geo-engineering, solar radiation management, arosol spraying and global climate change; such as extreme weather, droughts, flooding, fires etc. are not being ackowledged and discussed by your self as well as the mainstream media? Many of us are aware that climate change is a intentional UN global agenda. The violent and destructive changes to global climate is an act of war. Please inform me how it is that you do not ackowledge these facts in you research?
Debra (from Canada)
Dear Debra,

The debate on geo-engineering as a possible response to climate change (which would include solar radiation management (such as aerosol spraying) and also carbon capture and storage/CCS) is on-going. It has to some degree been discussed in policy fora but has mainly been confined to scientific studies and research. The reason for this is at the relevant geo-engineering technologies and techniques have never really left the drawing board and practical geo-engineering solutions to climate change are yet to be found. Therefore, no large-scale geo-engineering measures to mitigate the effects of climate have been adopted and I am personally sceptical if this will ever happen.

Taking the example of CCS, it is not technically feasible to burn an amount of coal and use the energy extracted from that process to capture and compress the resultant CO2 into a volume that is comparable to the volume of the original coal. You can only compress the CO2 down to the order of ten times the original coal volume until it liquefies and you hit a compression “wall” – making CCS for coal unsustainable in terms of volume/storage use (as the captured CO2 has to be actually stored somewhere).

Another problem with considering geo-engineering as a solution to climate change is that it assumes that the effects of having too high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can somehow be linearly addressed by altering some external variable (in this case the influx of solar radiation). However, the global environment does not behave in a linear fashion. Solar radiation management may very well have some positive effects in reducing global warming, but will also result in additional problems such as a globally changed radiation profile with impacts on biological processes, chemical pollution caused by the aerosols used, and so on. Such a “solution” to climate change is certain to cause new environmental challenges.

These are two reasons that geo-engineering has not been acknowledged as a solution to climate change and discussed in-depth by UN Environment and the mainstream media. Instead, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions remains the focus of climate change action.

Kind regards,
Gustav

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