Monday, December 14, 2015

Landmark Climate Deal Approved by All Nations at Paris Talks

Historic deal sets the world on a course to a low carbon future 
fueled by clean, renewable energy

For the first time in history, representatives of 195 nations have unanimously approved lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help avoid the worst effects of climate change.

In a statement from the White House, President Obama said “This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future."

Obama added, "We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge. It won’t be easy. Progress won’t always come quick. We cannot be complacent."

“The world finally has a framework for cooperating on climate change that’s suited to the task,” said Michael Levi, an expert on energy and climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world, though, depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.”

Prior to the Paris talks, 186 nations put forth public plans detailing how they would cut carbon emissions through 2025 or 2030. Enacting those plans will cut emissions by half the levels required to fend off the worst effects of global warming.

There is no legal requirement dictating how, or how much, countries should cut emissions. So the Paris accord has built in a series of legally-binding requirements that countries ratchet up the stringency of their climate change policies in the future. Countries will be required to reconvene every five years, starting in 2020, with updated plans that would tighten their emissions cuts.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama’s top negotiator in Paris and who has spent the past year negotiating behind the scenes with his Chinese and Indian counterparts in order to help broker the deal, defended the agreement. While the deal includes no mechanism that would force countries to cut pollution, it will make every nation report emissions, upping the pressure on governments to act, he said.

“There is a uniform standard of transparency and therefore, we will know what everybody is doing,” Kerry said. “The result will be a very clear signal to the marketplace of the world that people are moving into low-carbon, no-carbon, alternative, renewable energy.”

Despite the historic nature of the Paris climate accord, its success still depends heavily on two factors outside the parameter of the deal: global peer pressure and the actions of future governments.

A deal that would have assigned legal requirements for countries to cut emissions at specific levels would need to go before the United States Senate for ratification. That language would have been dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, where many members question the established science of human-caused climate change, and still more wish to thwart Mr. Obama’s climate change agenda.

The Republican-controlled Congress already voted this month to block the centerpiece of Obama’s climate agenda, rules that would cut emissions by one third from the U.S. fleet of power plants. However, Obama can veto the measure.

As with health care, opponents may find it hard to undo Obama’s environmental legacy. The power-plant rules will probably end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, where the administration has a strong track record on pollution cases. And in the private sector the tide has, arguably, been turning. Utilities have already shuttered dozens of coal-fired power plants in recent years. Last week, Ford Motor Co. said it plans to invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicles to meet ambitious new auto emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration.

“People in the Republican party I speak with know they’re on the wrong side of history on this issue, like with gay marriage,” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And Obama is sticking it to them. He’s saying, do you really want to be the party that’s against science and against what people want?”

Read more online at: 
The New York Times: Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris
The Bloomberg Politics report at the Buffalo News: Like Obamacare, Climate Gives President Huge But Fragile Win
The Washington Post: 5 things you should know about the historic Paris climate agreement

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