The Paris Agreement

Just after 6:00PM in Paris, one day after originally planned, the landmark climate change agreement was approved.  It’s hard to overstate the importance of what happened during the COP21 summit, but according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, “It was the most ambitious step ever taken by the international community to battle climate change.”  It is the first climate deal ever to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.   After the agreement was reached, President Obama was quick to recognize its importance by stating, “The Paris Agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis, it creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way.”   This historic agreement, known simply as the Paris Agreement, includes emissions reducing pledges from each of the 196 countries and assurances have been put in place to help developing countries acclimate to the destructive effects of an already warming world. Negotiators also settled on methods to review, reinforce, and scrutinize the countries’ annual contributions going forward.   While the world is currently ecstatic that an agreement was reached between all 196 countries, specifically achieving the most important goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, there are still those who worry.  Critics are quick to point out that the agreement is very short on specifics of how the plan will be enforced or how improvements will be measured over time.  Environmentalists are also unsatisfied particularly with respect to financing for clean energy technology and climate change adaptation.  Another worry is that the agreement may not take place right away.  You see, the agreement won’t begin until 55 countries have approved it and those 55 countries must account for 55% of the global greenhouse gas emissions; this means that if the world’s largest emitters don’t approve the agreement, ratifying it could prove incredibly difficult.   Even though one may be able to see some negatives along with the positives of the Paris Agreement, I think Nick Turton, former head of media at the UK Government’s Department of Energy & Climate Change encapsulated the final feelings best when he stated, “my glass is half full. With the US and China already pursuing domestic policies unthinkable only a few years ago and boardrooms – even big oil – backing action, this time it feels like the UN process is catching up with what’s actually happening on the ground.”   We may still have a long way to go, but this agreement marks unprecedented progress worldwide.  Nearly 200 countries united to collectively acknowledge climate change, their role in it, and devise a plan to battle it – which in my opinion, is certainly deserving of some celebrating.

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