Climate action needed for Paris goals. It is now up to Parliament

Willemstad – Curaçao undersigned the landmark Paris agreement on climate change, which entered into force on Nov. 4, 2016.  A coalition of the world's largest polluters and small island nations threatened by rising seas pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. Curaçao, one of the world’s biggest polluters per capita, has yet to produce a policy program document and action plan.

There are few places on earth more vulnerable to climate change than the Caribbean — and the region is already experiencing its impact. From sea level rise to frequent and intense natural hazards to extended dry seasons, climate change is a present-day reality. The Caribbean Tourism Organization said the Paris Agreement ‘offers hope’.

The Paris Climate Change Conference had firm foundations given that 186 countries had submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC ) in the run-up to the summit. These 186 nations account for 96.5 percent of the world’s emissions, greatly different to the Kyoto Protocol agreed in 1997 which was signed by only 12 percent of the countries that contribute to global pollution.

The Paris Agreement could be remembered as ,,the moment we finally decided to save our planet," American president Barack Obama said, in September, after formally ratifying the Paris climate deal in a ceremony in Hangzhou, China. For decades, it was as if China and the U.S. were the captains of two opposing teams in a match debating approaches to climate change. China represents about 20 percent of the worldwide emissions, while the U.S. is equal to 18 percent. Some studies have linked polluted air in China to 1.6 million deaths per year.

For the United States, the formal ratification process was completed when Obama signed an agreement and submitted the country's plans to the United Nations. In order for the Paris climate deal to come into force, 55 countries representing 55 percent of worldwide emissions had to formally sign on. On April 22nd last year the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed on, with the support of Curaçao, Aruba and St. Maarten.

The Dutch parliament has voted for a 55% cut in CO2 emissions by 2030, which would require the closure of all the country’s coal-fired power plants. Five Dutch coal-fired power stations were closed last year but the country still has another five plants in operation.  The parliamentary vote followed a report by the consultancy CE Delft, which found that the cheapest way to meet the Netherlands’ climate commitments would be to close one or two new coal stations. The paper, which was commissioned by Eneco, a Dutch green power company, estimated this would cost the average household 30 euros a year, but save them 80 euros a year on energy bills.

Nine countries from the North Seas region agreed to strengthen cooperation on energy. Ministers from the countries involved – the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Norway – signed a political declaration and action plan, agreeing in particular to collaborate on the planning and construction of offshore wind farms. Dutch energy minister Henk Kamp announced the construction of several big wind farms in the North Sea, including five big farms in the Netherlands. Future wind farms located close to each other in the various neighboring countries are destined to be connected via one single electricity cable from the sea to the land instead of a separate cable for each country. Reinforcing regional cooperation in this way is expected to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing security of supply in the region.

At the climate change conference in Paris, the Netherlands was one of five countries and eight US states to join the International Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Alliance, pledging to make all new vehicle sales electric by 2050. The Netherlands is considering taking matters into its own hands, with talk of banning all petrol and diesel vehicle sales as soon as 2025. Although existing fossil-fuel-run vehicles could continue driving around until their engines gave out, the ban would mean that only electric cars would be approved for sale come 2025. The proposal sounds extreme, but the majority of the lower house in Dutch parliament is already on board, meaning that there’s definitely a chance that the ban could be passed into law.

It is not clear what action Curaçao will take. The Coalition Agreement between MAN, PNP, PAR and PS clears the way for the consideration of renewable energy solutions. The new government led by Prime Minister Hensley Koeiman (MAN) also wants to keep the Isla refinery in place. The government program proposes research into the possibilities of establishing an Energy Bureau, emphasizing the interest in the secure supply of energy resources, as well as in the sustainability and diversification of those resources. There is no mention of a proposed cut in CO2 emissions or specific actions to be taken to follow through on the commitments that the Paris agreement embodies.

According to news agency Inter Press the former Netherlands Antilles - including Curaçao, since 2010 an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands – are the fourth largest per capita emitter of CO2 in the world, producing 31.9 metric tonnes per person.