Historic Climate-Change Deal Signed in Paris Twenty-three (23) years after the world’s first international treaty on climate change, a landmark agreement among 196 nations has been signed in Paris.
Twenty-three (23) years after the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992—the world’s first international treaty on climate change—all of the 196 signatory nations of the UNFCCC have signed a landmark agreement in Paris. The treaty, negotiated at a major conference that took place from November 30 to December 11, 2015, commits the signers to significant benchmarks in ameliorating global warming, with an overall goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.”
The framework requires signatories, beginning in 2020, to pursue the emissions targets they set for themselves, and those national targets will be reviewed and strengthened every five years. To achieve the limitation of 1.5 degrees in temperature increase, not only will greenhouse gas emissions have to be reduced meaningfully, but such emissions will also have to be removed from the air and put into carbon “sinks” (natural or artificial reservoirs—such as the ground, deep ocean, or vegetation—that retain carbon and keep it from entering the atmosphere) in order to balance out the emission of human-created greenhouse gases.
The Paris agreement is notable not only for its stated scientific goals, which, if achieved, promise a true reduction in the rate of global warming by the second half of the 21st century, but also for its centering of the concerns of smaller and developing countries. Leaders of low-lying island countries, for example, were heard on the human-rights effects of climate change and on the problem of rising sea levels, which are already beginning to swamp their shores. Further, the agreement holds developed nations to a financial commitment of at least $100 billion in aid given annually, beginning in 2020, to poorer countries in order to help them deal with climate change.
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