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Vincenzo Buonomo: a good result that needs to be proven in practice

Eight out of ten is the “vote” given to the COP21 agreement by Vincenzo Buonomo, Professor of International Law at the Lateran University, appointed Councillor of the Vatican State by Pope Francis. "It managed to converge 196 world countries. More could not be obtained.” However, weaknesses linger on and funding is yet to be verified. Pope Francis’ “advocacy” and “stakeholder” roles

Vincenzo Buonomo

Eight out of ten: it’s the “vote” given to the COP21 deal by Vincenzo Buonomo, Professor of International Law at the Lateran University, appointed Councillor of the Vatican State by Pope Francis. “If we consider the points of departure and arrival it becomes clear that the Conference has managed to strike a deal between 196 countries with different positions on the basis of two principles enshrined in Art. 2: “equality” and “shared yet differentiated responsibilities.”

“More could not be obtained”.

The deal enshrines at least 5 relevant decisions. The first is the decision to keep global warming below 2 degree Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C. “Until five years ago – the Professor said – the 2-degree target seemed hard to achieve. This means the Conference has made important progress. It also means that public opinion at national level exert consistent pressure on their own national governments”. Second, the consensus reached on the deal is a veritable achievement. India, China, the United States and Europe – Buonomo pointed out – have sat around the negotiating table starting with diverging positions. However, all 196 Countries responsible for 93% of greenhouse gas emissions have given the green light to the final deal”. Then there is the question of controls: the deal provides for the review of progress every five years on a voluntary basis. “This is true. However, also other climate agreements stipulate voluntary reviews at national level”, Buonomo remarked.

“It’s unrealistic to envisage supranational monitoring bodies given the present circumstances. However, the issue is expected to become a priority in the near future”

The question of funding. The agreement only provides for the funding of the targets. Developed Countries have pledged to provide $100bn annually to developing nations by 2021, with the aim of reviewing the funded amounts in 2025. “This aspect – the Professor said – could signal a change in attitude on the part of developing Countries. In fact, they were the ones that blocked a large part of the climate negotiation. They said: ‘why can’t we use the energy sources that made rich North World countries?’” As for the financing under the agreement, the Professor is cautious: “We need to wait and see whether the funding will come through and how. It is also said that 267 billion dollars are sufficient to eliminate world hunger until 2030. However, as for now, those funds are nowhere to be seen. That’s why I believe that we must wait and see what will happen in the passage from promises to action.”

The deal contains at least 3 weaknesses. For Professor Buonomo “the first weakness is the lack of a ban on the use of coal, as initially envisaged; second, the theme of agriculture, representing an area with a strong impact in terms of emissions as well as a strategic sector for human survival, has not been mentioned.”

“The third weakness is the exclusion of emissions from planes and ships owing to ‘impossible controls’”.

The Pope’s role. In the language of International Law one could say that the Holy Father has had both “advocacy” and “stakeholder” roles. In fact, as relates to the former, “he managed to prompt wide-scale reflection, including self-criticism, among the decision-makers. And concrete proposals ensued.” Francis is also a stakeholder “if we consider the impact of his Encyclical on the COP 21 climate deal. In terms of the protection of the common home it would be right to claim that the Pope has played a central role. He followed all the stages of the Conference and also addressed the issue during the Angelus prayers of December 6 and Dec.13.” So can we rest assured about the future of our children for the next 50 years? “No – Buonomo replied – at international level tranquillity does not exist. Indeed, there is willingness and bona fides, and if they are put into practice we can expect positive outcomes. I exclude tranquillity since, very often, it just means stagnation”.

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