LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Reyes responds to Diaz’s “It is NOT legally binding”

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I am writing in response to the article by Mr. Rony V. Diaz (Manila Times, Dec. 21) who was reacting to my recent article entitled “The Paris Agreement: reflections on a human endeavor” (Manila Times, 18 Dec).

Firstly, I am pleased to note that Mr. Diaz and I basically agree on the challenges ahead – the Philippines’ spectacularly ambitious pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent, China’s attitude toward reducing her emissions, the carbon tax, and the difficulties the global community faces in achieving the 1.5 celsius temperature goal.
In his first sentence Mr. Diaz disputes the statement I made in my article stating that the Paris Agreement on climate change is legally binding.

The facts are these:

1. On Dec 12 Laurent Fabius, the COP21 President, announced that the Paris Agreement was “differentiated, fair, balanced, durable and legally binding.”


2. The “Paris Agreement” contains binding and non-binding elements. The document can be divided into two parts. The first part, the Agreement itself, is legally binding. The second part, the mechanisms of the Agreement, has less legally binding areas, notably in relation to: national emissions reduction targets, financial commitments, and compensation and liability vis-a-vis loss and damage claims.

In the second paragraph of his article, Mr. Diaz appears to relate the “shall/should” options to the whole of the Paris Agreement and its legally binding status. This is not correct. The “shall/should” options refer specifically to Article 4.4, page 21 of the 31-page final Agreement, which is about emissions, differentiation, and liability and compensation.
In his penultimate paragraph, Mr. Diaz cites Bernarditas Muller as saying the Paris Agreement is a “statement of the status quo.”  Mr. Diaz is misrepresenting Ms. Muller’s views. The quote he cites has been lifted from my article and is taken out of context. Ms Muller’s remarks, which I quoted, refer not to the Paris Agreement as a whole, but specifically to the draft proposal that was circulated on the afternoon of Day 9 of COP21 at the G77 + China meeting which I attended.

Mr. Diaz refers to air conditioners as a common source of nitrous oxide. This is not the case. Common sources of nitrous oxide are transportation fuels, agriculture (livestock manure and urine), and commercial fertilizers. The lethal greenhouse gases that emanate from air conditioners (and also from refrigerators and aerosol cans) are hydrofluorocarbons or hfc’s.

Yours respectfully,
Rachel A.G. Reyes

[Opinion Editor’s note: Dr. Rachel A. G. Reyes, who will be writing regularly for The Times from Europe, sent this Letter to the Editor on Dec. 22. She is Associate Research Fellow in the Department of History, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

University of London.  Her email addresses are rr14@soas.ac.uk  and  raquelreyes14@gmail.com]

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