COP21 was a truly global moment for ending climate change. Stacy Hanrahan CND, Barbara Spears SNJM, and Michele Morek OSU represented UNANIMA (picture) After years in the making and a final two weeks in Paris, 195 countries agreed to an ambitious agreement which you can access here: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf
The target of allowing a temperature increase of “well below 2 degrees Centigrade…and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5” is the most ambitious yet. The provision to reduce “emissions from deforestation” and to take other steps to save forests is the most significant statement in one of these agreements about the role forests play in de-carbonization. While developing countries were disappointed that a particular amount of money was not named, there was a recognition that developed countries should help them cope with the effects of climate change and transition to low carbon alternatives as they develop. For the first time, the terms “loss and damage” was included in an international agreement to acknowledge the suffering of small island nations in danger of disappearing. One of the hard-fought issues was transparency, or a single system through which the carbon reductions of all countries could be evaluated. And finally, every country will be required to come back every five years with a report on its carbon emissions and with a new / renewed pledge. (See New York Times of Sunday December 13, “Highlights: Agreements Careful Language on Curbing Emissions.”
This agreement is the first to be truly universal—to require action from every country, rich or poor. It will not solve global warming on its own, but it could represent the moment that the inexorable rise of carbon emissions that started during the Industrial Revolution began to level off and even decline. The important thing is WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Success will depend on global peer pressure and governmental stability. So, let’s celebrate, and then roll up our sleeves and get to work!