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Climate change and energy

The world reaches a deal to advance the Paris climate accord, barely

December 16, 2018

After two weeks of contentious talks, representatives of nearly 200 nations agreed to a common set of rules for tracking climate emissions and policies on Saturday, salvaging the landmark Paris accord.  

Not nearly enough: The deal, reached after late-night negotiation sessions at the United Nations meeting in Poland, won’t be nearly enough to avoid environmental calamities.

If every country followed through on its original promises to reduce greenhouse gases, global temperatures could still rise more than 3 ˚C, twice the amount set out as a target in the international accord. Yet many nations aren’t even on track to meet their self-imposed pledges, and global emissions have continued to rise in two of the three years since the Paris agreement was reached.

Compromises: The COP24 talks nearly broke down over the refusal by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Kuwait to endorse the UN climate panel’s October report, which concluded that the world would need to dramatically cut emissions to prevent temperatures from rising 1.5 ˚C, potentially as early as 2030. Ultimately the relevant language had to be softened, and nations compromised or punted on a number of other measures.

Deeper committments: But at least the hard-won deal preserves an international treaty pushing the world to take collective action on climate risks, and creates a “rulebook” that holds nations to a single set of standards. To have any hope of meaningfully addressing the growing dangers of climate change, countries will need to demonstrate real progress and commit to far deeper emissions cuts at the 2020 talks.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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