Paris Climate Change Agreement on track to come into effect by the end of this year

1. The Paris Climate Change Agreement crossed the first of two thresholds required for it to enter into force after 31 governments yesterday formally submitted their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

It is expected to cross the second threshold – ratification by countries representing a total of 55% of global emissions – later this year.
Sixty countries representing 47.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions have now joined the agreement

A further 14 countries, representing 12.58% of emissions, have committed to joining the agreement in 2016, “virtually assuring” that it will enter into force this year

Entry into force will transform the climate action plans, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), submitted by nations in the run up to the Paris conference into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Governments will also be obligated to take action to achieve the two temperature limits enshrined in the agreement.

Nuclear power will play a part in many countries’ decarbonisation plans. World Nuclear Association director general Agneta Rising said last week the nuclear industry can achieve the momentum required to create an additional 1000 GWe of new capacity by 2050 needed to meet increasing global energy demand whilst ensuring climate goals can also be achieved.

The contribution that each individual country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goal are determined by all countries individually and called “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs). Article 3 requires them to be “ambitious”, “represent a progression over time” and set “with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement”. The contributions should be reported every five years and are to be registered by the UNFCCC Secretariat. Each further ambition should be more ambitious than the previous one, known as the principle of ‘progression’. Countries can cooperate and pool their nationally determined contributions. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions pledged during the 2015 Climate Change Conference serve—unless provided otherwise—as the initial Nationally determined contribution.

The level of NDCs set by each country will set that country’s targets. However the ‘contributions’ themselves are not binding as a matter of international law, as they lack the specificity, normative character, or obligatory language necessary to create binding norms. Furthermore, there will be no mechanism to force a country to set a target in their NDC by a specific date and no enforcement if a set target in an NDC is not met.

Not part of the Paris Agreement (and not legally binding) is a plan to provide US$100 billion a year in aid to developing countries for implementing new procedures to minimize climate change with additional amounts to be provided in subsequent years.

In early March 2016, the Obama administration gave a $500 million grant to the “Green Climate Fund” as “the first chunk of a $3 billion commitment made at the Paris climate talks

2. The restart of Japan’s nuclear power reactors is “critical” to the success of the country’s energy policy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Japan’s idling of its entire fleet of nuclear power plants after the accident left a gap of some 30% in electricity supply. This gap has been filled with expensive, imported fossil fuels. By the end of 2013, import dependence had risen to 94% from 80% in 2010. Meanwhile, annual emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from power generation had increased by 110 million tonnes. Electricity prices increased by 16% for households and 25% for industry. By the end of 2015, just two reactors had been restarted and accounted for 0.9% of Japan’s electricity generation that year, compared with nuclear’s share of 25.3% in 2010.

To date, five Japanese reactors have been given final approval to restart, although two of these have remained offline due to a legal challenge. Another 20 reactors are moving through the restart process, which has been prioritized to bring on the most-needed reactors first, in the localities and prefectures more supportive of restart.

In April 2014, the government adopted the fourth Strategic Energy Plan (SEP) and, based on that plan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry prepared the 2015 Long-Term Energy Supply and Demand Outlook to 2030, which was adopted in July 2015. This outlook assumes Japan’s nuclear generating capacity will partially be restored, reaching 20%-22% of electricity supply by 2030. The country also announced plans in late 2015 to reduce CO2 emissions by 26% from 2013 to 2030.