The Paris Agreement, Backhanded Compliments & Future Issues

Beyond the ephemeral euphoria espoused by sensationalist news reports surrounding the alleged ‘binding’ international Paris agreement, the stark reality of this agreement continues to shine light on the yoke of inequality within international relations. Amidst disasters, social narratives are often guided away from the ramifications caused or exacerbated by powerful states.

From 20th century Chinese, European and U.S. involvement in eugenics, the antecedent and incitement of holocaust, to the Obama administration’s gesture of financial aid to Laos in compensation for its aerial bombardment that left a legacy of unexploded ticking time bombs, the world encounters yet another crafted tale in the form of the Paris agreement.

In the case of the Paris agreement, the world can rejoice that something has been done considering decades of tergiversation by the main contributors of global warming. However, it is important to recognize the word ‘something’.

The turbulent and devastating effects of El Nino that ravaged India during the 19th century during the British Raj had such a large impact not necessarily because of the natural occurrence, but because of imperial ambition. Mike Davis describes in ‘Victorian holocaust’ how the British uprooted years of indigenous agricultural systems that previously managed droughts, for the profit of the crown.

Although millions of people today have not died form global warming, a continuous global pattern of preponderance by the few inexorably bounds the many to the situation. The Paris agreement, which has been largely driven by island states that are already witnessing rising sea levels albeit due to various factors, now must pitch for cash incentives to stem a problem that they have had very little to do with.

It would be egregiously fallacious to assert a view that the main contributors are not sending delegates to events and contributing infinitesimal amounts of its annual GDP to help developing nations, but in order to actually halt the damage that has been done by such nations, economic back handed compliments, and artful rhetoric must cease in creating illusions of great success.

‘Binding’?

Then there is the issue of states abiding by the so-called ‘binding’ agreements. The history of international politics is rife with failed ‘agreements’ predominantly as a result of state economic competition and fears of national security. Edward Snowden’s revelations has given the world a brief insight to the lengths states will go to acquire diplomatic and economic advantage by means of economic espionage.

According to one detailed leaked document by Wikileaks titled National SIGINT Requirements List: EEI: H – Foreign Contracts/Feasibility Studies/ Negotiations’ the U.S. sanctioned surveillance to gather:

  1. Information and telecommunications facilities networks and technology;
  2. Electric power, natural gas, and oil facilities and infrastructure to include nuclear power and renewable energy generation;
  3. Transportation infrastructure and technology to include ports, airports, high­speed rail, and subways.

In previous years Mandiant has previously cited alleged evidence of China’s aggressive cyber economic espionage campaign towards the United States. This begs the question; what guarantees does the world have that states will cooperate in an orderly fashion?  Will states engage in aggressive cyber campaigns in the field of renewable energy as have been done in other fields?

Furthermore, will Machiavellian realist politics lead to states boycotting such agreements due to the perception of unfair application of the rules or will non-state actors be able to coordinate 200 plus nations to abide by the Paris agreement?

The reality

However, in spite of the push within the intelligentsia to place environmental issues at the forefront of securitization studies and wider society, contemporary pressing issues may prove to be too imminent for the binary developed and developing worlds to find a safe and sustainable modus operandi to allow the Paris agreement to manifest. Countries around the world that are beleaguered with partially self inflicted systemic corruption, mass miss management, energy shortages, black outs, and economic dependency on fossil fuels may have a tough time keeping up with the already ambitious targets of the Paris agreement.

Furthermore the use of nuclear energy particularly after the Fukushima disaster is still a relatively preferred avenue for some nations such as the U.K, which has recently given the green light for Chinese involvement in the Hinkley nuclear power plant construction. To note, it is important to acknowledge that the Paris agreement was designed to help reverse damage to the environment which can have serious impacts on the lives of citizens around the world, therefore it is imperative for nations to take avenues that do not risk potentially causing more of an environmental disaster than which has already been done or forecasted than global warming itself.

Needless to say domestic concerns of future job losses as a result of superimposing renewable energy on an entrenched industry of fossil fuels will be a controversial and inevitable collision between political parties, unions and the ambitions of the Paris agreement. The US presidency race will be highly anticipated not just because of hacking scandals or Trump’s vituperative remarks about the fanaticized Mexican wall, but because Trump is very concerned about job losses as a result of the Paris agreement.  If he is to actually win, what impact will the world’s second biggest contributor to the issue have on the integrity of the Paris agreement? There is no doubt that this deal in the long run will become highly politicized when it actually comes down to making tough decisions to balance the demands of the current populace and future generations.