Monday June 12, 2017

Why it's not fair to lump Nicaragua with the U.S. when it comes to the Paris climate accord

The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words 'Paris Agreement is Done' on Nov. 4, 2016. Only three UN members have opted not to sign one: Syria, Nicaragua and the United States.

The Eiffel tower is illuminated in green with the words 'Paris Agreement is Done' on Nov. 4, 2016. Only three UN members have opted not to sign one: Syria, Nicaragua and the United States. (Jacky Naegelen/Reuters)

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Nicaragua is tired of being lumped in with the U.S. when it comes to the Paris climate accord. 

When President Donald Trump announced earlier this month the U.S. would not sign the international agreement, the U.S. joined just two other UN members in the same boat. One of them is Syria, which is mired in a devastating civil war. The other is Nicaragua.

But the small Central American country's problem with the Paris agreement is a lot different than Trump's. Nicaraguan National Policy Minister Paul Oquist, the country's negotiator at the 2015 Paris talks, outlined those differences to As It Happens host Carol Off. Here is part of their conversation:

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U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Carol Off: Donald Trump says the Paris climate accord is too restrictive for the United States. Why didn't Nicaragua sign on?

Paul Oquist: Because the agreement is too weak. The agreement is not legally binding. The agreement does not keep temperature under 2 C. It doesn't achieve the 1.5 C degree goal. It has developing countries renouncing their legal rights to indemnization for the losses and damages that they're receiving year after year. So the Paris agreement doesn't fulfil its own objectives.

The Paris agreement is set up in such a way that it is getting the large emitters off the hook. The large emitting countries do not want to commit themselves to the degree of emissions reductions required to reach the 1.5 C target, or even the 2 C target. So they are looking for all kinds of subterfuges to not oblige themselves to take the political decisions, economic decisions, that would be required to stop climate change.

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Paul Oquist, seen here at the 2016 UN climate change conference, says the Paris accord lets countries that emit the most greenhouse gases off the hook. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

CO: You're saying it's because it doesn't go far enough.

PO: Absolutely.

It will be less water, less food, less health, less nutrition, more poverty — and more migration, by the way, towards the northern countries.

There are already climate change refugees in the world. … The world is headed to very difficult times because of the failure of the high-emitter countries to come to terms with the absolute necessity that they reduce their emissions … so I think that the developed countries should think this through. Think through what the consequences of not assuming the responsibilities now are going to be.

CO: What do you think of Canada's record on greenhouse gas emissions?

PO: Canada left the Kyoto agreement, as you know. ... Canada has two per cent of the world's emissions. It's among the top 10. [Editor's Note: Canada's emissions in 2013 made up 1.6 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Environment Canada. It ranks ninth among the world's top 10 emitters.] 

It would be wonderful if Canada would take a leadership role among them, because Canada has the ability to do so, I think. It has very good international relations. And to take a leadership role in here so as to plant the necessity of reducing the gigatonnes for 2030 from 55 to below 35. With that we could put the lid on 1.5 C temperature change in this century and save the world from a lot of grief — of death, destruction, massive migrations, and disease.

But to do that it's going to very strong measures to take the world very swiftly to a genuinely low-carbon economy and to massive capture of greenhouse gases via the reforestation of degraded land.