195 countries agreed on Saturday in Paris on the final draft of the pact to end global warming. At the 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, the agreement titled the Paris Agreement, the countries committed to preventing the average world temperatures from rising another degree Celsius by the year 2100. The world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times. They also committed to limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100. The agreement does not include sanctions or penalties for non-compliance.
The deal needs to be ratified by individual governments and would take effect in 2020. The conference was scheduled to end on Friday but was extended to allow negotiations over the precise wording. The main dispute was over how to establish the targets in a binding international pact. China, which accounts for 24% of the total greenhouse emissions in the world, and other major developing countries insisted on different rules for rich and poor nations. The agreement compromised by stating that expectations from countries to take climate action does not grow as their capabilities develop.
The UN has been working for over two decades, trying to advance such a universal environmental pact to reduce global warming. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol included only rich countries and the US signed it but it was never submitted to the Senate. The 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen ended when countries couldn’t agree on a binding emissions pact.
The adoption of the agreement was delayed for nearly two hours as the US rallied to change the wording on emissions targets. The draft agreement had said developed countries “shall” commit to reducing emissions. The US convinced the pact organizers to change it to read that to “should” make that commitment. The US, which accounts for 14% of the total greenhouse emissions in the world, also required a footnote specifying the pact “does not involve or provide any basis for any liability or compensation”. This will allow President Barack Obama to sign the pact without passing it through Senate or Congress for approval.
President Obama tweeted, “This is huge. Almost every country in the world just signed on to the #ParisAgreement on climate change — thanks to American leadership.”