A pinboard by
Anna Firsova

International climate agreements and climate change politics were the topics of my PhD research.


Follow recent academic research on fate of the Paris Agreement

In 10 seconds? Nearly 1/5 of world carbon emissions come from the US, thus a recent announcement by President Trump on the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is world-shaking.

To meet a 2 degree Paris target, all countries including the US should act immediately. Even if US emissions were to decrease again after 8 years (a maximum term of any US president), it could take at least 15–25 additional years for emissions to get back to the current level.

What are the indirect consequences? In the US, current policy would negatively affect development of technologies and academic research.

Internationally, cuts in the US financial support to Green Climate Fund may negatively hit the developing countries’ emission reductions.

Since the Paris goals are voluntary with no financial penalties, it was not necessary for the US to officially withdraw from the Agreement. By doing so, the US sends a clear signal discouraging other countries’ climate efforts.

Thus, this decision is an example of long-term goals being trumped by political short-termism.

Is there anything positive? Climate initiatives by individual American companies, the US Climate Alliance and other US States and Territories committed to the Agreement may still help to reduce a very large amount of the US emissions.

Also, the biggest emitters China, Russia and India and many other countries to date stay committed.

How would this decarbonisation occur? Researchers offer a roadmap with the detailed steps such as:

2017-2020: annual emissions start falling by 2020; fossil-fuel subsides eliminated; China’s emissions continue to decrease.

2020-2030: improved energy efficiency reduces emission 40 to 50%; carbon pricing covers all emissions; coal is about to exit global energy mix; long-distant transport decarbonised.

2030-2040: oil is about to exit global energy mix; internal combustion engines become rare; aircraft fuel carbon neutral; CO2 removal rate doubles.

2040-2050: by 2050 net-zero emissions reached; CO2 removal scaled-up (read more).

by Anna Firsova


Will the Paris Agreement accelerate the pace of change?

Abstract: Since adoption of the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997, the international climate regime has been caught in stasis. Due to a lack of direction and clarity at the policy level and deep political divides, the evolution of the international climate regime under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had failed to catch up with the changes occurring in the real economy. The momentum created ahead of COP21 in 2015 and resulting Paris Agreement has changed this, creating a new paradigm of international climate policy, politics and cooperation that is, if implemented, capable of generating the momentum needed to accelerate the pace of change and drive transformation. This new paradigm that emerged from the Paris Agreement, demonstrates the role of the United Nations in giving voice to smaller countries to create effective positive powerful coalitions and the need to invite the outside world into the process through greater participation of cities, business, investors and other non-state actors. We outline the main policy and political shifts that the Paris Agreement represents, and explain why this new paradigm of international climate policy, politics and cooperation is key to accelerating the pace of change and keeping the world well below 2°C, and optimally 1.5°C.For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Pub.: 24 May '17, Pinned: 13 Jun '17

Trade-offs for food production, nature conservation and climate limit the terrestrial carbon dioxide removal potential.

Abstract: Large-scale biomass plantations (BPs) are a common factor in climate mitigation scenarios as they promise double benefits: extracting carbon from the atmosphere and providing a renewable energy source. However, their terrestrial carbon dioxide removal (tCDR) potentials depend on important factors such as land availability, efficiency of capturing biomass-derived carbon and the timing of operation. Land availability is restricted by the demands of future food production depending on yield increases and population growth, by requirements for nature conservation and, with respect to climate mitigation, avoiding unfavourable albedo changes. We integrate these factors in one spatially explicit biogeochemical simulation framework to explore the tCDR opportunity space on land available after these constraints are taken into account, starting either in 2020 or 2050, and lasting until 2100. We find that assumed future needs for nature protection and food production strongly limit tCDR potentials. BPs on abandoned crop and pasture areas (~1300 Mha in scenarios of either 8.0 billion people and yield gap reductions of 25% until 2020 or 9.5 billion people and yield gap reductions of 50% until 2050) could, theoretically, sequester ~100 GtC in land carbon stocks and biomass harvest by 2100. However, this potential would be ~80% lower if only cropland was available or ~50% lower if albedo decreases were considered as a factor restricting land availability. Converting instead natural forest, shrubland or grassland into BPs could result in much larger tCDR potentials ̶ but at high environmental costs (e.g. biodiversity loss). The most promising avenue for effective tCDR seems to be improvement of efficient carbon utilization pathways, changes in dietary trends or the restoration of marginal lands for the implementation of tCDR. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Pub.: 04 May '17, Pinned: 20 Jun '17

Key indicators to track current progress and future ambition of the Paris Agreement

Abstract: Current emission pledges to the Paris Agreement appear insufficient to hold the global average temperature increase to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels1. Yet, details are missing on how to track progress towards the ‘Paris goal’, inform the five-yearly ‘global stocktake’, and increase the ambition of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We develop a nested structure of key indicators to track progress through time. Global emissions2, 3 track aggregated progress1, country-level decompositions track emerging trends4, 5, 6 that link directly to NDCs7, and technology diffusion8, 9, 10 indicates future reductions. We find the recent slowdown in global emissions growth11 is due to reduced growth in coal use since 2011, primarily in China and secondarily in the United States12. The slowdown is projected to continue in 2016, with global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and industry similar to the 2015 level of 36 GtCO2. Explosive and policy-driven growth in wind and solar has contributed to the global emissions slowdown, but has been less important than economic factors and energy efficiency. We show that many key indicators are currently broadly consistent with emission scenarios that keep temperatures below 2 °C, but the continued lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage13 threatens 2030 targets and the longer-term Paris ambition of net-zero emissions.

Pub.: 30 Jan '17, Pinned: 13 Jun '17

Safeguarding development and limiting vulnerability: India's stakes in the Paris Agreement

Abstract: India has a great deal at stake in the Paris Agreement. As a large and poor developing country, India stands to gain or lose from both obligations under the Agreement and its effectiveness in addressing climate change. This comment describes India as a premature power in climate politics, locates Indian climate negotiating positions in global context, and develops a balance sheet of India's gains and losses in the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement has received a lukewarm reaction in India because it runs against some key principles of Indian climate politics. However, the Paris Agreement requires assessment by a different set of metrics. Instead of principle-driven changes in national actions, the Paris Agreement architecture relies on inducing changes through procedural commitments and supportive mechanisms. Viewed from this perspective, the Paris Agreement brings some signs of hope for India. The bottom-up contributions should allow India to safeguard development and explore more linkages between development and climate objectives. Even while inadequate, the existing pledges do collectively set an upper bound on catastrophic climate change, although the introduction of a 1.5° goal induces cynicism among Indian stakeholders. The transparency, expert review, and stocktake processes, when combined with regular updates of nationally determined contributions, are designed to ramp up contributions over time. Whether this trajectory is feasible or wishful thinking depends a great deal on future country actions. The Paris Agreement provides a framework within which India could productively engage its interests, even while it by no means guarantees their realization.For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.

Pub.: 01 Nov '16, Pinned: 13 Jun '17

Managing a forgotten greenhouse gas under existing U.S. law: An interdisciplinary analysis

Abstract: The United States’ legal strategy for addressing climate change in recent years has relied on authority from existing legislation. This has led to measures on a number of different greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, methane and hydrofluorocarbons. However, one greenhouse gas has been largely forgotten: nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is the third most abundantly emitted greenhouse gas in the U.S. and worldwide, as well as the largest remaining threat to the stratospheric ozone layer. In addition, the nitrogen atoms in nitrous oxide are part of the highly fluid nitrogen cycle where nitrogen atoms transform readily among different chemical forms, each with a unique environmental and human health impact – a process known as the nitrogen cascade. While the science of the nitrogen cascade has been explored for over a decade, there has been little work on the legal implications of this phenomenon. And yet the nitrogen cascade expands the legal options available for controlling nitrous oxide. This paper studies these options in a U.S. context and explores the environmental and economic impacts of enacting them. We determine that the Clean Air Act, and in particular its broad authority for controlling ozone depleting substances, is the most promising legal pathway for regulating nitrous oxide across all major sources. Invoking such authority could generate significant climate and stratospheric ozone benefits over 2015–2030, equivalent to taking 12 million cars permanently off the road, and 100 million chlorofluorocarbon-laden refrigerators out of service. The economic benefits could sum to over $700 billion over 2015–2030, with every $1.00 spent on abating emissions leading to $4.10 in societal benefits. The bulk of these benefits would come from reductions in other forms of nitrogen pollution such as ammonia and nitrate, highlighting the important and multiple co-benefits that could be achieved by abating nitrous oxide emissions. With the Paris Climate Agreement calling for limiting global temperature increases to “well below” two degrees Celsius, all mitigation opportunities across all sectors need to be considered. This paper suggests that nitrous oxide warrants more attention from policy-makers in the U.S. and around the world.

Pub.: 24 Nov '16, Pinned: 13 Jun '17

When decarbonization meets development: The sectoral feasibility of greenhouse gas mitigation in India

Abstract: Publication date: January 2017 Source:Energy Research & Social Science, Volume 23 Author(s): Joshua W. Busby, Sarang Shidore In the run-up to the 2015 Paris climate talks, the Indian government announced ambitious climate mitigation goals as part of its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions). Whether India can meet these targets is a critical question with implications for the success of the Paris climate agreement. We assess India’s potential for emissions mitigation through a sectoral lens, focusing on eight dominant sectors – namely electricity production, agriculture, road transport, buildings, and four disaggregated industry subsectors (steel, cement, petrochemicals, and fertilizers). We argue that whether emissions mitigation is favorable from a structural perspective is a function of two main factors: (1) political/organizational feasibility and (2) techno-economic feasibility. Political/organizational feasibility in turn is assessed through two additional factors, market concentration and government concentration. Our central intuition is that fragmented markets and/or fragmented government structures pose barriers for collective action. Road transport represents the most favorable sector for emissions mitigation followed by petrochemicals. Cement and fertilizers are already at or near the global efficiency frontier. Three sectors – electricity, agriculture, and steel – represent hard cases on both dimensions of feasibility. Buildings possess strong techno-economic feasibility but challenging political/organizational feasibility.

Pub.: 11 Dec '16, Pinned: 13 Jun '17