Global climate change is a defining challenge of our time. By most estimates, if global temperatures rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the results may well be catastrophic, and irreversible.
For the first time, since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where governments agreed to work toward the "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system", countries around the world have reached a universal, multi-lateral agreement to mitigate the causes of climate change.
On December 12th, 195 countries adopted the Paris Agreement, which establishes a global framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time ever, all participating countries will set their own targets toward progressively and verifiably reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, and will submit to a rigorous, standardized process of review.
The agreement sets a goal for parties that includes keeping the temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. In order to do so, the world will need to move toward a clean energy economy.
In the words of President Barack Obama, “We’ll have a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.”
The agreement places a strong focus on mobilizing public and private climate finance to support developing countries, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable which can least afford the expenses associated with climate change, and are also the most adversely affected by it. That is why, as part of a global effort, developed countries agreed to continue to mobilize jointly $100 billion per year from public and private sources, in the context of meaningful mitigation action and transparency, until 2025, when a new target for all parties will be set from a floor of $100 billion.
“We have reached an agreement,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, “that will help the world prepare for the impacts of climate change that are already here and also for those we know are now headed our way inevitably. And we have reached an agreement that, fully implemented, will help us transition to a global clean energy economy and ultimately prevent the worst, most devastating consequences of climate change from ever happening,” he said.
“We’ve taken a critical step forward.”