By Emma Saso
LE BOURGET, France—On Saturday, December 12, after weeks of night-long meetings and debates drawing in delegates from across the globe, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius marked the official closing of the Paris Agreement with the strike of his gavel. The 195 nations involved in the Paris Climate Change Conference had finally arrived at a much awaited deal that many had thought impossible.
The Paris Agreement is so remarkable because it is the first climate deal of its kind. Unlike previous deals created within borders of developed nations and concerning only themselves in emission reduction, the Paris Agreement pushes boundaries and expands its scope towards a broader collective of countries, inclusive of developing nations such as India and China.
The agreement sets a goal to keep rising temperatures under a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as we move towards a cleaner future in sustainable energy use, countries are encouraged to reach the further goal of keeping temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Additionally, emission of greenhouse gases should reach a global peak as soon as possible, and then should be cut swiftly so as to assure that by the second half of the century no emissions are being released into the atmosphere that exceed the amount that the environment can rightfully handle.
The agreement will provide funding for the development of sustainable energy sources. This money will prove particularly valuable for developing counties that have signed the deal, so as to assist in their endeavors of meeting the stated goals. Although critics have argued that the funding provided is insufficient, it will in any case begin the process of sustainable energy development.
The agreement reached in Paris will be reviewed every five years, which is vital in order to keep open our possibilities of adaptation and modification as we move forward.
President Obama responded to the Paris Agreement by acknowledging the incredible challenge of arranging any deal that involves close to 200 counties. He deems the agreement a necessary starting point, but warns against contentment as we move forward.
“Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we’ll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere, so we cannot be complacent because of today’s agreement,” President Obama said on Saturday.
Like any agreement reached between such a vast array of countries, the Paris Agreement is ripe with dissension. The most constructive of criticism stems from scientists sporting evidence of the dire reality of climate change, who label the deal made in Paris as insufficient in solving the issues at hand. They claim that current pledges in emission reduction that countries have made will not be enough to reach the targets they have set fourth. Instead, they insist upon a corporation and technical innovation backed fundamental shift away from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy sources.
Although the deal is not perfect, current climate change and emission statistics give evidence that it is an undeniable step in the right direction.
“The world finally has a framework for cooperating on climate change that’s suited to the task,” Michael Levi, a climate change policy expert and member of the Council on Foreign Relations, said. “Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world, though, depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.”