Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Policies of Most Countries Do Not Meet Objectives of Paris Agreement, Expert Says

Policies of Most Countries Do Not Meet Objectives of Paris Agreement, Expert Says

Saturday, 7 December, 2019 - 08:15
Hundreds of environmentalists arrange their bodies to form a message of hope and peace in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, December 6, 2015 | Benoit Tessier/ Reuters

Fatih Birol, a Turkish economic expert and the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said that "the environmental policies adopted by most countries, whether industrial or developing, do not help achieve the goals set in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and may even contribute to exacerbating the climate crisis if urgent and effective measures are not taken to reverse the current situation."

In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat after presenting the Agency's annual report to the climate summit held in Madrid, Birol said: "The support of many governments for fossil fuels is three times higher than the support for renewable fuels, making the choice clear for consumers who automatically shift to less expensive energy, and will not change their behavior as long as this equation is not changed. Think about the electric cars that have made headlines for years, they are still expensive, while the four-wheel drive cars, considered a major environmental problem, are invading global markets."

"Environmental awareness about climate change risks and consumer behavioral decisions are important, but government policies are more important, particularly in the energy sector, which accounts for 80 percent of CO2 emissions. Without addressing this problem, there is absolutely no hope of achieving the goals of Paris Agreement," he added.

IEA Director expressed concerns about the divergence between the scientific evidence provided by experts and the foundations on which governments base their policies and use when negotiating actions to combat climate change. "Experts sound alarm bells and call for accelerating the adoption of ambitious measures before it is too late, while the governments are maneuvering to extend deadlines and loosen goals related to greenhouse gas emissions, although they are aware of the enormity of the crisis and the urgency of addressing it. It would be enough to recall the Paris agreement and its ambitious goals set in 2015, and admit that since then, gas emissions have not stopped rising."

Birol saw that the four-wheel-drive cars are causing "environmental chaos" on the global level.

He said: "In 2010, these cars accounted for 18 percent of all cars in the world, and now 10 years later, they account for 42 percent, and are expected to hit 50 percent in the US before the end of the coming decade. The four-wheel-drive cars consume 25 percent more oil than regular cars, but all indicators suggest the global demand on these cars is increasing."

This invalidates the importance of electric cars and shows us how setting goals without actions cannot lead to the desired results.

"Good intentions alone are not enough. Consumers are looking for a quick and effective response to the climate change crisis as it directly affects our lives and the future of our children. I live in Paris, where this year we have seen an unprecedented rise in temperatures that has led to the deaths of hundreds of elderly and sick people. In Africa, food crops failed in many countries because of drought, but government measures are still moving in the opposite direction," said the economist, who does not hesitate to criticize his country's consumer patterns.

"I regret to say that I don't expect much from this summit. The world powers are focusing on the trade war, feverish competition on markets, and undermining multilateralism. These are not the best conditions for confronting such a global crisis that requires everyone's contribution to successfully address it," Birol concluded.

In a related context, researchers have scooped up and measured tens of thousands of birds that died after crashing into buildings in Chicago during spring and fall migrations. Their work has documented what might be called the incredible shrinking bird.

A study published on Wednesday involving 70,716 birds killed from 1978 through 2016 in such collisions in the third-largest US city found that their average body sizes steadily declined over that time, though their wingspans increased.

The results suggest that a warming climate is driving down the size of certain bird species in North America and perhaps around the world, the researchers said. They cited a phenomenon called Bergmann's rule, in which individuals within a species tend to be smaller in warmer regions and larger in colder regions. The study focused on 52 species, mostly songbirds that breed in cold regions of North America and spend their winters in locations south of Chicago. The researchers measured and weighed a parade of birds that crashed into building windows and went splat onto the ground.

Over the four decades, body size decreased in all 52 species: the average body mass fell by 2.6%, and the leg bone length dropped by 2.4%. The wingspans increased by 1.3%, possibly to enable the species to continue to make long migrations even with smaller bodies.

"This means climate change seems to be changing both the size and shape of these species," said Biologist Brian Weeks of the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, lead author of the study published in the journal Ecology Letter.

For his part, Dave Willard, collections manager emeritus at the Field Museum in Chicago who measured all the birds, said: "Virtually everyone agrees that the climate is warming, but examples of just how that is affecting the natural world are only now coming to light."

Editor Picks