After two weeks of backroom chats and hectic negotiations in Paris, representatives from 196 countries signed a landmark climate deal on Saturday. All the countries agreed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are responsible for global warming. It is going to change the way we produce and consume energy, as the deal seeks to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in favor of clean energy. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the deal saying, “History will remember this day.”
Need to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2050
Of course, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change necessitates compromise. First thing, the deal calls for countries to work towards limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial times. Many countries and island states vulnerable to global warming had called for capping it to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which was also recognized in the document.
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Limiting temperature rise to 2-degrees means carbon emissions must be reduced between 40% and 70% by 2050 compared to 2010 levels. The accord requires nations to cut emissions at the earliest to “achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks” such as forests that absorb greenhouse gases.
Second, all the 196 countries will need to update their carbon emission reduction pledges every five years, starting 2020. The deal agreed upon in Paris guarantees to limit temperature rose to 2.7 degrees Celsius, but the long-term goal is to bring it down to 2 degrees Celsius. So, countries will collectively track their progress and update their pledges.
Developing nations get some flexibility in Paris deal
Third, all the negotiators agreed to set up a framework for monitoring and verification of emission reductions. It will ensure transparency so other countries could put pressure on underperformers to do more. The Paris deal gives developing nations like India, Nigeria and others some flexibility to balance their growth and emissions reductions. Developing countries had argued that they had the right to grow and lift millions of people out of poverty. Requirements for extremely poor countries and island states are even lower.
Fourth, the accord requires developed countries like the US, UK and Germany to help developing countries pay for reducing emissions and cope with the effects of climate change.