Academic Projects

Analysis of the Paris Agreement through Liberian Agriculture

October 26, 2018

  1. The international organization I have chosen to analyze is the Paris Climate Agreement. The broad goal of the agreement is to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. When the treaty was first introduced in 2015, 195 countries ratified it. For these countries, this means that their governments’ primary initiative is to mitigate environmental damage by reducing CO2 emissions. While the goal of protecting the Earth’s environment is almost universally agreed upon to be a crucial issue, there are a few reasons why some countries might not join this Paris Climate Agreement. Before analyzing the costs and benefits in doing so, my prediction as to who might join is fully developed countries that have the means to reduce their reliance on “dirty” energy (energy that produce high volumes of CO2 such as coal, oil and natural gas). While dirty energy is harmful to the environment, it is also cheaper to harvest and use. So, fully developed countries that already have in place the key infrastructure that generally requires large funding should be able to transition from these cheaper forms of dirty energy to renewable energy, which conversely has a greater initial investment cost (however pay back that cost over time). Countries that are still developing cannot be expected to make this transition and in turn, would be far less likely to want to join the Paris Climate Agreement since they would still be reliant upon dirty energy that produce CO2 emissions. For that reason, I would predict that an under-developed country, such as Liberia would not be inclined to ratify the agreement. 
  2.  The independent variables of my prediction is Liberia’s reliance on agriculture as key part of their economy. While their CO2 emissions are consistent with other West African countries, their reliance upon the agriculture industry is much higher than the others and highlights Liberia’s emphasis on agriculture, as shown by the charts below. The dependent variable is Liberia’s concern of climate change and how the Paris Climate agreement could affect their ability to rely on agriculture, as it represented roughly 35% of their GDP in 2015. Because Liberia relies so heavily on agriculture and is still developing, they would be unlikely to want to join the Paris Agreement. 
  3. My independent variable of Liberia’s reliance on agriculture as a key part of their economy relates to the dependent variable of concern for the effects of climate change, because it is important for its government to know the potential harm caused by climate change as it relates to its agriculture industry for the sake of the country’s GDP. Greater understanding of the Paris Agreement, especially as it relates to their agriculture, might increase Liberia’s level of concern for climate change. The process that would cause this outcome might entail some major climate-related event that damages agriculture in Liberia and prompts a change in policy.
  4. I have this prediction because a similar incident occurred with Colombia in relation to the Paris Climate Agreement, where they did not initially join because of their concern with the standards of treaty. However, a greater understanding of climate change and its effects on deforestation in Colombia served as the motivating factor that spurred the country to join in 2017. Liberia would not feel the impetus to join unless it had a similar factor that changed their previously-held stance. 
  5. I am looking at Liberia at 2015, when the declined to enter the Paris Agreement and in 2018, when the ultimately did. The independent variable is their reliance on agriculture, while also keeping in mind forecasts of their future reliance. Comparing the data from the above and below charts, Liberia’s agriculture represented 34.4% of its GDP in 2015 and 35.4% in 2017. In the years leading up to 2015, agriculture’s portion of GDP had been declining, however experienced an uptick over the next two years. This might have led the government to initially think that their reliance on agriculture was waning and in knowing that, would not want to join the Paris agreement on account of the restrictions that might hurt other seemingly-developing sectors such as industry (shown below). Leading up to 2015, the industry sector, which requires great investment of infrastructure, almost doubled as a percentage of Liberia’s GDP. However, in 2017 it seems that industry sector growth has flattened, around 14% – enough cause for concern to make the government reconsider its reliance on agriculture. These are good representatives of the value of “concern” because while it is intangible, it is reflective of a Liberia’s confidence in industries that correlate to the effects of climate change in very different ways and is contingent upon the independent variable of the strength of its agriculture industry. 

 6)   The dependent variable, concern for the effects of climate change, increased in 2017, after these patterns were made clear to Liberia’s government by the Foreign Relations Committee, the Liberian Senate took the decision to join the Paris Agreement. The dependent variable was altered by the committee’s finding that rising CO2 emissions would lead to greater rainfall events, natural disasters and increased water levels that would mean a higher likelihood of devastation to Liberia’s crucial agriculture. Moreover, article also cites that 70% of the population is sustained by the agricultural sector, meaning that any significant harm to it could represent not only an economic issue, but also a widespread unemployment issue. Given this, the three year period indicating the long-staying importance of agriculture to Liberia’s GDP must have played a large role in understanding what benefits joining the Paris Agreement would bring the country. 

7)   Key data points:

Liberia’s agriculture sector in 2015 relative to their GDP relative to other West African countries 

*34.4% is the highest by a wide margin and shows a great reliance on agriculture

Liberia’s agriculture sector in 2017 relative to their GDP

*uptick to 35.4% from 2015 showing previous years of decline had flattened meaning  

  that agriculture sector would still be most important area

Liberia’s industry sector in 2015 relative to their GDP relative to other West African countries

* 12.5% is the lowest and shows the lack of progress in this sector – any future growth

  in this area would still require large funding and such a underdeveloped country would 

  likely use the cheapest form of energy to do so

Liberia’s CO2 emissions relative to other West African countries

*in similar range highlighting the different economic factors Liberia must have accounted 

  that made the country reluctant to join the Paris Agreement

Liberia’s GDP per capita (shown below) relative to other West African Countries

*452 is the lowest showing it is clearly an underdeveloped country which understates its 

  concern for Paris agreement requirements

8) In analyzing the data, it is clear that while Liberia had seemingly been experiencing a change in the demographics in its economy (from agriculture based to industry based) in the years leading up to 2015 (the year in which the Paris Agreement was signed), the data from the following three years indicated that Liberia’s economy remained largely unchanged and affirmed that agriculture would remain integral to their GDP. The intervention from the Foreign Relations Committee proved to an important moment for the decision to join made by the Liberian Senate. The data brought forward by the FRC that related that 70 percent of the population was dependent upon agriculture for their livelihoods, that agriculture would still play a key role for the economy, and that increased climate change could have a significant negative impact on agriculture in Liberia all served as motivating factors that convinced Liberia to ratify the Paris Agreement. The very low GDP per capita shows that Liberia is still a developing country and still dependent upon the cheapest forms of energy i.e. those that would release the most CO2 emissions. Given this, it makes sense why Liberia would have been reluctant to join in 2015 when data indicated a potential shift towards an industrial economy, which would have required much more investment into energy. However, the findings by the FRC showed that regardless of how important the industry sector became, climate change would have huge ramifications on Liberia’s agriculture sector and it would be in the country’s best interest to join the pact in an effort to protect their most important GDP generator. I conclude that my prediction is well-informed but not fully accurate as I am sure that there are other factors that might have motivated Liberia’s participation in the Paris Agreement beyond just the importance of the agriculture industry, however the data I have presented above provides an understanding of why Liberia might have acted the way they did in 2015, refusing to join and why they changed direction in 2018 and felt that ratifying was in their best interests.