The Paris Climate Accords

October 30, 2017

On December 12, 2015, representatives from 196 countries came together to create a pact to mitigate climate change. The Paris Agreement was historic in uniting almost every country on the planet in an effort to combat climate change. In the end, every country but Syria and Nicaragua signed the pact. This conference serves as a universal declaration that global warming is real and needs to be stopped.


Photo: Markus Spiske on Unsplash  


The main goal of the conference was to limit average global temperature levels to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The temperature of the planet has already risen 1 degree above pre-industrial levels, causing the Earth to be warmer than it ever has been. However, even if carbon emissions are lowered at the rate demanded by the agreement, the temperature will still rise by more than 2 degrees by the end of the century. Because of this, there are also plans to continue meeting in order to provide updates on the progress, and perhaps add some more drastic steps.


The agreement takes note of “the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible,” and it establishes the understanding that developed countries will provide developing countries with money to help speed up growth in the energy sector. This will be an amount of at least $100 billion a year. Countries will have estimates of how much money they need in order to change their greenhouse gas emissions, and they will hopefully continue to be committed to the goals formed at the conference.


Reductions are expected to begin in 2020, with more concrete plans for the future being formulated in 2020 as well. It is expected that every five years after that, new money targets will be put forth. The hope is that by the middle of the century, there will be a net of zero emissions.


This historic deal has been in the news lately, following President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, an agreement that the Obama administration worked hard on. Nicaragua has recently announced its plan to join the deal, leaving the US and Syria as the only countries choosing not to participate. The US has pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 to 26%-28% of their emissions in 2005. Because of this agreement, the US will not be completely pulled out of the deal for years. Many American states and cities have vowed to continue to support the agreement, regardless of federal policy.


It is hard to say whether the Paris Agreement will be successful, especially now that one of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases has dropped out of the pact. However, much of the world remains committed to the fight against climate change.  As of October 5th, 169 parties have ratified the convention.


Hi, my name is Kathryn Kuhar and I am a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard College studying Government. A fun fact about me is that I’ve lived in Hawaii, California, Belgium, and Turkey.

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