195 Countries Commit to Climate Deal in Paris
By admin December 15, 2015


For almost two weeks, leaders from around the world negotiated over a climate deal in Paris. On Saturday, December 12, 2015, 195 countries signed a 31-page legal agreement, now known as the Paris Agreement, setting ambitious goals to limit temperature rises and hold governments accountable for reaching those targets. The agreement intends to cut greenhouse gas emissions to a level that will limit the global average temperature to a rise below 2 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. Moreover, the agreement will eventually pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase below or at 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

The signing of the agreement corresponds with what is expected to be the hottest year on record, and the three hottest decades on record. Currently, the primary sources of emissions causing the earth’s temperature to rise are oil, coal, and gas. However, the three largest burners of coal, the US, China, and India, have all agreed to reduce their reliance on coal per the Paris Agreement. Further, there were reports of tense negotiation exchanges between the US, France, and oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia to agree to the deal. Despite these drawbacks though, they too have signed on to the deal.

That being said, the universal agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change signal an end to the fossil fuel era. The International Investors Group on Climate Change said that the decision would help trigger a shift away from fossil fuels and encourage greater investments in renewable energy.

The agreement also acknowledges that the more developed and more industrialized countries have done the most to cause climate change. Because of that, per the agreement, developed countries have pledged a minimum of $100 billion a year by 2020 for developing countries to adapt to the ravages of our, already, overheated climate. The idea behind the $100 billion pledge is to incentivize developing countries to gradually switch to renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind as those countries continue to develop.

Although the Paris Agreement is considered historical, ambitious, and unprecedented, critics still believe that the agreement will fail to live up to its promises of reducing carbon emissions. For example, critics point out that there have not been any real initiatives by China and India to reduce their reliance on coal. According to the New York Times, China and India are actually still building coal fired power stations at a rapid rate and a thousand more of them are expected to be constructed during the next decade.

Moreover, Oxfam has estimated that the cost of sustainable energy adaptation for developing countries to be as much as $800 billion, significantly higher than the $100 billion pledged by developed countries. Lastly, critics point out that there is truly no repercussions for countries that fail to follow the agreement as countries are trusted to set their own targets for carbon emissions.

However, although there is much room for improvement in the agreement, the deal is still considered a foot in the right direction as the Paris Agreement is the first successful global effort to combat climate change.  Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, called the Paris agreement “a diplomatic triumph.” Moreover, Sachs says “Rather than reaching a binding agreement, with economic incentives for good behavior and sanctions for scofflaws, the delegates settled for what a skeptic might describe as a common expression of good intentions.”


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