Paris agreements offer new hope

Riley Addington

In 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held in Kyoto, Japan. At the convention, a total of 84 countries opted to sign the documents that were drafted. These documents came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol.

 What these documents accomplished was the establishment of a commitment to reducing climate change for many different countries. Specifically, the Kyoto Protocol sought to reduce the amount of human-emitted greenhouse gases based on the way that certain countries could reduce their emissions effectively, taking into consideration distributions of national wealth, industry, technology, etc.

 However, as the years have gone by, it’s been seen that the Kyoto Protocol isn’t as effective as it was originally intended to be. At this point almost every nation has signed and ratified the document. However, just like children, there are always a few nations that will ostensibly protest having to participate.

 In the case of the Kyoto Protocol, five sovereign nations didn’t ratify the Kyoto documents. They are: Afghanistan, Southern Sudan, Andorra, Taiwan, Vatican City and The United States. Yes, we’re one of the few nations who chose not to place ourselves under the binding power of the Kyoto Protocol.

 Additionally, the Vatican and Andorra were not asked to sign the documents as they were observers, so that essentially leaves the U.S., Afghanistan and South Sudan, which is a country that’s younger than most of us. Even North Korea thought that they should have ratified the documents, but not the U.S.

 Since last year in Paris, the UNFCCC is meeting to discuss new talks of climate change enforcement and regulation. The language of the documents has already been drafted and the world waits to see how many nations will sign the agreement today. Currently the numbers have been changing although, around 120 countries are estimated to sign and adopt the Paris documents. In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol it appears that this time we, the U.S., are much more willing to engage in the political process and enforcement of these regulations. Which is a good thing considering that in order for legislation such as this to be effective, all parties must participate and give it all their effort.

 If the U.S., China, Russia and other major countries were to decide to forgo participation in the Paris agreements, those agreements would become nothing more than meaningless documents. However, via total participation they are no longer toothless pieces of paper, but instead have real power. The U.S. and other nations have had a history of shying away from agreements such as this.

 For example, the U.S. eventually signed the Kyoto Protocol after a lot of pressure, but then chose not to ratify the document, meaning we said we like it, but we wouldn’t accept it.

 Another example of this kind of behavior is the way that we’ve treated the International Criminal Court, which is responsible for prosecuting actions such as human rights violations, war crimes, etc. Again the U.S. signed the agreement establishing the court, but when it came down to ratifying the document and placing the U.S. within the court’s jurisdiction, we backed out.

 Behavior such as this from our nation and others can derail the benefits of the Paris agreements, so hopefully we don’t see
that happen.