The Paris Climate Deal Is Now in Force. What Comes Next?
The Paris Agreement was hailed as a turning point for world governments tackling climate change, and it has now come into effect. What does this mean for the world — and where do we go from here?
On Friday, November 4, the Paris Agreement went into effect, meaning that the agreement made last year by nearly 200 international delegates must now be honored. To recognize the consensus coming into force, the United Nations stated that it is a moment to celebrate – and to take concerted action.
“We remain in a race against time,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized. ”Now is the time to strengthen global resolve, do what science demands and seize the opportunity to build a safer, more sustainable world for all.”
What happened at the Paris climate talks?
The Paris climate agreement is a wide-ranging and complex international pact, but it boils down to a few relatively simple principles.
Last December, world governments agreed with the overwhelming scientific data stating that global warming must be kept below 2ºC over industrial levels to stave off potentially catastrophic environmental changes. The agreement also highlighted the preferred 1.5ºC limit.
To accomplish this, nations made a number of promises.
For example, the United States and the UK agreed to stricter enforcement of greenhouse gas emission caps and committed to allocate more resources for green energy technologies. They also committed to subsidizing poorer nations as they make the switch and compensating countries that have been hit hardest by the effects of climate change to date.
While developing nations like India would not agree to the same caps, countries were able to arrive at a compromise: Developing nations would be allowed to continue actively mining for and using fossil fuels but would scale that use down over the next decade and a half. Additionally, these countries would receive assistance in transitioning to green energy alternatives.
This arrangement intends to give developing nations access to the same kind of growth potential the West enjoyed while simultaneously trying to mitigate the damage produced by fossil fuel use.
Encouraging signs, but a long road ahead.
The actual activation of the agreement has come ahead of schedule. On October 5, 55 of the world’s most polluting nations agreed to the deal, including the United States.
Because over half of the nations involved in the talks have now approved the deal, it was able to come into force 30 days later. The original time frame had predicted that the Paris Agreement would go into effect as late as 2020, so this firm commitment is a promising sign.
However, there are still many hurdles to overcome.
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