United On Climate

195 countries agree on a historic deal to combat global climate change.

195 Countries Agree On A Historic Deal To Combat Global Climate Change

Getting world leaders to agree can be difficult. Getting 195 of them to agree may be close to impossible. But this weekend, after more than two weeks of negotiations, 195 countries struck a historic international climate deal. The Paris agreement marks a victory for our environment, our prosperity, our public health, and our security. French President Hollande referred to the deal as “beautiful,” and President Obama called it “the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.”

The agreement is an important step forward in adapting to the impacts of climate change and promoting sustainable growth. It sets the world on a course to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius while aiming for an even more aggressive target, and establishes framework to ratchet up ambition in the future. Here’s what you need to know about the deal:

  • Strengthens long-term ambition: The agreement sets a goal of keeping warming well below 2 degrees Celsius while—for the first time—aiming to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, each country will communicate its progress and set a new target every five years. Each new target must reflect progress from the previous one, allowing progress to be ratcheted up over time.
  • Establishes an individualized approach for all countries: Instead of categorizing countries as either “developed” or “developing,” for the purposes of developing targets, the Paris deal allows each country to set their own non-binding targets. Thanks to this approach, 187 countries already submitted mitigation contributions, which will form the basis for a long-term durable system to reduce emissions.
  • Sends a market signal: The promise of ambitious targets submitted every five years, combined with a broad push on innovation and technology, gives businesses and investors a clear signal that global markets are shifting away from fossil fuels. This will create a virtuous cycle in which increased mitigation efforts lead to more investment and increased investment will allow for more mitigation by decreasing costs.
  • Puts in place a transparency system: A key piece of the deal is the transparency framework, which ensures that countries are on an even playing field and allows developing countries more flexibility. Additionally, the agreement requires all countries to report emissions by source and information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving targets.
  • Fights deforestation: Unlike the Kyoto Protocol , the Paris Accord explicitly calls for the protection and restoration of forests and other ecosystems, a crucial component of global action on climate change that will also help sustain livelihoods for the world’s poor, and habitat for the planet’s imperiled biodiversity.
  • Doubles down on existing financial commitments: An essential element of a successful global climate deal is ensuring developing countries have the financial assistance necessary to help their transition to clean energy. During the Paris talks, the U.S. agreed to double its grant-based public finance, pledging to invest more than $400 million a year for climate adaption in developing countries. Other large countries, including China, also joined the base of donor countries contributing to the existing goal of $100 billion, adding confidence that the goal will be met.

The Paris agreement makes significant strides towards avoiding unmanageable climate change. But, perhaps most importantly, the deal shows that nearly 200 countries—rich and poor, developed and developing—are united in the fight against climate change. There is only one group who isn’t united in this fight, and is threatening to undercut America’s leadership on climate issues at home and abroad: Congressional Republicans.

BOTTOM LINE: No country is immune to the impacts of climate change and the Paris agreement shows that world leaders are prepared to stand together to fight against the potentially devastating impacts of global climate change. But in order to fully implement the agreement and ensure a safer and healthier planet, the U.S. must continue to fight for climate progress at home and abroad. The stakes are too high for Congressional Republicans’ obstruction.

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