Representatives of 195 countries, representing more than 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have reached a landmark climate agreement that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change. The goal of the agreement is to limit global temperature rise to less than 2° Celcius, along with a stretch goal of 1.5°.
According to the New York Times:
“At the heart of the new draft text is a breakthrough on an issue that has foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change. Traditionally, such pacts have required developed economies, such as the United States, to take action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but they have exempted developing countries, such as China and India, from such action.
The new accord changes that dynamic by requiring action in some form from every country, rich or poor….Scientists and world leaders have said the talks here represent the world’s last, best hope of striking a deal that would begin to avert the most devastating effects of a warming planet.”
Key provisions of the agreement include:
- To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
- To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C
- To review progress every five years
- $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.
Broad agreement across the globe is a necessary first step, but now the real work begins. Even if every nation meets its target, we will not reach the warming reduction goal. Nations will need to do more over time, and technology must improve if we are to get there. In the United States, the familiar political hurdles must be overcome if we are going to take a leadership position in the world.
The decisions that need to be made about shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy will ultimately have a huge impact on the future of the Montana economy, and will require a more rapid shift than we are currently planning for. The days of coal must end, and we will need to shift quickly from oil and gas to solar, wind, electric, and other clean sources.
But this is a great day, and a time for celebration.