Source: Huffington Post
After two weeks of tense talks, word-wrangling and marathon overnight meetings, diplomats in Paris agreed to a global climate change accord on Saturday evening — a day after the summit’s scheduled conclusion.
Leaders and experts cheered the historic agreement that emerged from the 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21, calling it ambitious and realistic, and a crucial step in protecting the Earth for future generations.
“The decisive deal for the planet is here,” French President François Hollande told delegates Saturday morning, shortly before releasing the final draft. Outside, thousands of protesters had begun filling Paris streets in an appeal for a strong climate pact.
Some advocates, however, lamented that the deal falls short. They pointed to a lack of a specific timescale for phasing out fossil fuels, for example, as well as weak language on monitoring and verifying countries’ greenhouse gas emission reductions.
“This agreement won’t save the planet, not even close,” Bill McKibben, co-founder of350.org, a climate advocacy group, told The Huffington Post in an email. “But it’s possible that it saves the chance of saving the planet — if movements push even harder from here on out.”
Still, no one seems to be denying that the accord represents a major milestone, especially after more than two decades of United Nations climate talks that broadly failed in their chief objective to stabilize the warming of the atmosphere.
For the first time, rich and poor countries across the world have agreed to take steps to limit and adapt to climate change — from reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to helping one another adapt to rising seas, devastating droughts, food shortages and other impacts of global warming.
As the Paris text states, climate change “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet,” and “requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries.”
The final agreement, which spans 31 pages, sets a cap on global warming at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. Any greater rise, scientists have warned, could trigger catastrophic climate change. The text also adds an aspirational commitment to aim for even greater reductions, enough to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and thereby help protect low-lying nations most threatened by sea level rise.