After the Paris Agreement, how about one on Syria?

If a majority of the world can come together to protect the environment, why can’t the same be done to save humanity?

Ehtesham Shahid
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Despite being a work in progress, the Paris Agreement has turned out to be an extraordinary example of global consensus on climate change. The legislation has made rapid progress due to the large-scale harmony among world powers on the challenges facing the environment.

It has gathered rapid pace in the last one year as consensus developed among nations on climate issues. What germinated at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference, in December last year, crossed the threshold for implementation last week, on 5th October. If all goes as per plan, the Agreement will enter into force on 4th November 2016.


So what is this agreement and why is it coming to fruition so quickly? The central aim of the Paris Agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius this century. Its objective also is to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Nations are converging on this deal because they realize it is the best way forward for the health of the planet. There have indeed been bumps on the road, and some conspicuous absentees, but the focus has remained on the ultimate goal. Russia and France were among the first major countries to ratify the agreement and then the US and China joined hands in September. India, the world’s fourth-largest emitter, came onboard last month.

As things stand, over 55 parties – covering more than 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – have ratified the agreement, fulfilling one of the basic criteria for its implementation. Considering the way negotiations have gone thus far it appears set to meet its deadline. In the words of Barack Obama: “If we follow through on the commitments, history may well judge this as a turning point for the planet”.

It may be easier said than done but, make no mistake, the same set of powers that have helped broker the landmark climate deal can also deliver a peace agreement in Syria

Ehtesham Shahid

Slow and painful rewind

Compare this to the stalemate surrounding the Syrian conflict and there seems to be no clue on how to even halt bloodshed. One wonders that if a majority of the world leadership can gather under one banner to help save the planet, then how difficult is it for them to make concessions to save humanity. On hindsight, it seems, following into the footsteps of the Paris Agreement may be the way forward.

A fundamental rethink in approach seems to be the need of the hour as numerous UN Security Council resolutions, several rounds of peace talks in Vienna and scores of backroom diplomatic moves have come to nothing. Even something as basic as ceasefire hasn’t been adhered to. It appears that the world – leaders to be precise – have simply run out of ideas.

Stakeholders should probably take a cue from the Paris Agreement, set similar targets and make the process more tangible. So in October 2016, if all parties to the conflict agree on one basic element i.e. setting the same month next year as the deadline for ending the conflict in Syria, then it might seem achievable. It can start with the implementation of a ceasefire by next month and then preparing for talks in the beginning of the New Year.

It may be easier said than done but, make no mistake, the same set of powers that have helped broker the landmark climate deal can deliver a peace agreement in Syria. For that to happen though, they will have to focus on working for humanity just the way they came together to protect the environment.

Just as climate change talks dragged on for years and then gathered pace in the last one year, if an ambitious deadline is set for a peace deal in Syria, who knows, it might coincide with the coming into force of the Paris Agreement next year.
Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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