By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Is Iran pulling out of Paris Agreement?

May 20, 2018

TEHRAN — While the cabinet of ministers and the Majlis (parliament) have approved the Paris Climate Agreement, the Guardian Council, that constitutionally holds veto power over all legislations approved by the Majlis, has not ratified the deal.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signed the Paris Agreement on climate change during a ceremony at the United Nations headquarters in New York, April 22, 2016. 

“However, the agreement was brought before the Guardian Council, but the council did not approve it and proposed amendments, so the deal is now being hammered out in agriculture, water and natural resources group of the Majlis,” ISNA quoted Karim Shafie, deputy environment chief for legal affairs, as saying on Saturday.

Paris Climate Agreement, also known as Paris climate accord, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. The Agreement aims to address the global climate change threat by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. 

As Shafie said, Iran has submitted Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC committing to cut the greenhouse gas emissions by 4% percent in 2030. However, subject to termination and non-existence of unfair and brutal sanctions, availability of international resources in the form of financial support and technology transfer, exchange of carbon credits, accessibility of bilateral or multilateral implementation mechanisms, transfer of clean technologies as well as capacity building, Iran has the potential of mitigating greenhouse gas emission up to 12%.

“By ratifying the Paris agreement, Iran should make commitments which might put the country into significant expenses,” the deputy environment chief said. 

There are proponents and opponents of the agreement in Iran, he said, adding, those who are opposing the deal believe that ratifying the deal would carry considerable costs, and the costs should be funded by developed countries or international entities.

On the other hand those who are advocating the deal believe that the deal would help Iran to mitigate environmental pollutants and that “we” can mitigate greenhouse gas emission in sectors which may not carry high costs.

He further suggested that there are some concerns the deal may “act against our national interest” and that’s why “we should proceed with extreme caution”.

“We should be wary of not being forced to make and legally binding commitments which may later result in more sanctions and penalties for us,” he warned. 

Parties and signatories to Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement was open for signature by states and regional economic integration organizations that are parties to the UNFCCC (the Convention) from April 22, 2016 to April 21, 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The agreement stated that it would enter into force (and thus become fully effective) only if 55 countries that produce at least 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions ratify, accept, approve or accede to the agreement. On 1 April 2016, the United States and China, which together represent almost 40% of global emissions, issued a joint statement confirming that both countries would sign the Paris Climate Agreement. 175 Parties (174 states and the European Union) signed the agreement on the first date it was open for signature. On the same day, more than 20 countries issued a statement of their intent to join as soon as possible with a view to joining in 2016. With ratification by the European Union, the Agreement obtained enough parties to enter into effect as of 4 November 2016.

On August 4, 2017, the Trump Administration delivered an official notice to the United Nations that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as it is legally eligible to do so. The formal notice of withdrawal cannot be submitted until the agreement is in force for 3 years for the U.S., in 2019. In accordance with Article 28, as the agreement entered into force in the United States on 4 November 2016, the earliest possible effective withdrawal date for the United States is 4 November 2019.

When Donald Trump announced he intended to leave the Paris climate deal, he blamed the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country”.

Climate finance

According to UNFCCC official website the contribution of countries to climate change, and their capacity to prevent and cope with its consequences, varies enormously. The Convention and the Protocol therefore foresee financial assistance from Parties with more resources to those less endowed and more vulnerable. Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties in implementing the Convention. To facilitate this, the Convention established a financial mechanism to provide funds to developing country Parties.

In 2015, at the Paris Conference, where the Agreement was negotiated, the developed countries reaffirmed the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and agreed to continue mobilizing finance at the level of $100 billion a year until 2025.

Is the deal legally binding? 

In an article titled “is the Paris climate deal legally binding or not?” published in November 2017 on Climate Change News website, it is stated that the truth is that some parts of the deal are legally binding and some aren’t. The text is littered with modal verbs – should, shall, may, etc. – that carry different legal weight. Shall is the big one; it obliges countries to undertake that action. The Paris deal contains 117 ‘shalls’.

So why is the Paris Agreement so flexible? A look at previous international climate agreements suggest that the Paris Agreement aimed to change things up by steering away from the binding nature of previous agreements. That rigid structure had failed many times before.

So how could the Paris Agreement actually work? Since it is mostly non-binding on substance but binding on reporting, the efficacy of the whole deal depends on countries “naming and shaming” each other to do better.

With current estimates of warming that will occur even if countries meet their Paris pledges varying from 2.7C to 3.5C, there will need to be a lot of effective shaming. Nonetheless, it is unusual for countries to call each other out in public venues for fear that they will themselves face such an attack. And, of course, poorer countries may fear criticizing nations on whom they depend for significant financial and military aid.

Proponents argue that the Paris system of accountability might work by allowing nations to take greater action voluntarily than they would have if they were forced.

What is the best thing to do?

Brutal sanctions imposed on Iran are the main obstacles which make any progression difficult for the country. In order to fulfill our climate commitments, be it 4% or 12%, we need to modernize the current system and that entails international cooperation, which is, unsurprisingly, hindered by the sanctions.  

Granted, making such a commitment would help in cutting pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions and accordingly climate change. In fact, climate change is causing a great deal of inconvenience for our region. Low precipitation amounts, drying up wetlands, deforestation and water shortage are only a few of the catastrophic outcomes of climate change.

However, taking on a commitment which may not be actually possible to meet might not be very wise under the current circumstances. Nonetheless, regardless of global deals and commitments, the country should move towards sustainability as it is the only way to respond to the current environmental challenges. 

MQ/MG

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