After weeks of negotiation, the 195 countries present at the Paris Climate talks have come to an agreement on how the world’s governments can combat climate change.
You can read the full document here. We’ll be updating this post with more news and analysis.
Some of the highlights include:
• An acknowledgement that a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius is the absolute maximum the world can sustain, and that we should do everything to hold the increase to a lower number–somewhere around 1.5 degrees Celsius. Many climate scientists say that a 2 degree threshold–which was a number being focused on by some governments in the run-up to the conference–is too high, so this acknowledgement of 1.5 degrees is important.
• A nebulous agreement for developed nations to devote significant funding to help finance developing countries’ efforts to use clean energies and otherwise mitigate climate change. The agreement mentions a number of $100 billion, but in a non-binding section. Still, developing countries have been demanding a monetary commitment from countries that had the advantages of using coal to develop their economies.
• A universal, transparent system of measuring emissions, so that the actions countries take to adhere to the agreement can be assessed fairly. And an agreement to re-assess country’s reduction targets every five years–something that developing nations like India were hoping to extend to every 10 years, presumably so they had more time to take advantage of high emissions targets for longer periods of time.
Getting to an agreement that the world’s countries can vote on is incredibly impressive and will give the global community a common goal of fighting climate change–something the world desperately needs. But the agreement is largely free of specific emission numbers, targets, monetary commitments, and penalties for non-compliance. Even the temperature increase threshold is left up in the air, somewhere below 2 degrees if possible. This will help the Obama administration, which doesn’t want anything in the agreement that would require Senate approval (which they very likely wouldn’t get), but makes the agreement seem largely toothless to many climate activists:
As George Monibot, writing in the Guardian, says:
While earlier drafts specified dates and percentages, the final text aims only to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible”. Which could mean anything and nothing.
Now it remains to be seen if the world’s governments can even vote and pass this agreement. Then comes the work of implementing it–and making it stronger so it actually can save the planet. Achieving 1.5 degrees could require phasing out fossil fuels entirely by 2050, according to Greenpeace–that would require a serious change from the world we live in today.