Paris Climate Pact: Everything You Need To Know Here!

Last Saturday, delegates from 195 nations made history by signing the Paris Climate Pact — the first legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions and combat global warming — during climate talks in Paris. The countries had been negotiating the pact for over four years after previous attempts to reach such a deal had fallen through.

But what exactly is this global agreement?

The Paris Climate Pact calls for “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below the 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

This acknowledges scientific conclusions that an increase in atmospheric temperatures over 2 degrees Celsius may ensure that the planet’s future will involve rising sea levels, an increase of devastating floods and droughts, and more powerful storms. It also acknowledges the threat to low-lying island nations that may be inundated by sea level rise at the warming rate of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The agreement also calls for countries to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter.” This calls out to the fossil-fuel industry, saying that much of the world’s remaining reserves of coal, oil, and gas must stay in the ground and cannot be burned.

Additionally, “the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change” was deemed crucial by poor and small-island countries that suffer most from extreme weather and from long-term impacts like droughts.

Prior to the agreement, 186 countries submitted plans that put into detail how they could reduce their greenhouse gas pollution through 2025 or 2030. National targets are set to be reviewed and strengthened every five years by 2020. By 2023, the deal will recover assessments every five years reporting how countries are doing in cutting their emissions with regards to their national plans.

Countries will be required to monitor, verify, and report their greenhouse gas emissions using the same global system. While developing countries such as China and India pushed for two separate accounting systems — one for rich countries and one for poor countries — it was the United States’ suggestion for the creation of an outside panel of experts to verify nations’ emissions reductions that won in the end.

Developed nations are called upon to contribute at least US $100 billion a year from 2020 to assist poorer nations deal with climate change. Furthermore, the agreement sets up the “Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency” to help developing countries provide a national “inventory report” of human-caused emissions, by source, and track their progress in meeting national goals.

The Paris Climate Pact is not without its criticisms. US Republican Senator Jim Inhofe called the Paris Climate Pact “no more binding than any other ‘agreement’ from any conference… over the last 21 years.”

Furthermore, former NASA scientist James Hansen slammed the agreement, believing that making fossil fuels prohibitively expensive through taxes or fees is the only way to lower emissions quick enough to avoid the drastic consequences of climate change.

While Greenpeace International sees the agreement as “diluted and polluted,” most green groups, on the other hand, perceive it as a place to start and something to build on. Meanwhile, developing countries have mostly been on the positive side, with the only “serious objections” of the group — which includes India, China, and Saudi Arabia — pertaining to the weather, not the agreement.

“This is a tremendous victory for all of our citizens,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry. “Not for any one country, or any one bloc, but for everybody here who has worked hard to bring us across the finish line. It’s a victory for all of the planet.”

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Regina is a Fine Arts graduate who expresses herself through various mediums. She finds amusement in pop culture, enjoys video games, and watches way too many YouTube videos on a daily basis.