Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming

December 12, 2015 byKarl Ritter, Seth Borenstein And Sylvie Corbet
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
French foreign minister and President of the COP21 Laurent Fabius, center, applauds while United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, and French President Francois Hiollande applaud after the final conference of the COP21, the United Nations conference on climate change, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015. Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change on Saturday, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that don't. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Nearly 200 nations adopted the first global pact to fight climate change on Saturday, calling on the world to collectively cut and then eliminate greenhouse gas pollution but imposing no sanctions on countries that don't.

The "Paris agreement" aims to keep global temperatures from rising another degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) between now and 2100, a key demand of poor ravaged by rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.

Loud applause erupted in the conference hall after French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gaveled the agreement. Some delegates wept and others embraced.

"It's a victory for all of the planet and for future generations," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding that the pact will "prevent the worst most devastating consequences of climate change from ever happening."

Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira added: "Today, we've proven that it's possible for every country to come together, hand in hand, to do its part to fight climate change."

In the pact, the countries pledge to limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.

In practical terms, achieving that goal means the world would have to stop emitting greenhouse gases—most of which come from the burning of oil, coal and gas for energy—altogether in the next half-century, scientists said. That's because the less we pollute, the less pollution nature absorbs.

Achieving such a reduction in emissions would involve a complete transformation of how people get energy, and many activists worry that despite the pledges, countries are not ready to make such profound and costly changes.

The deal now needs to be ratified by individual governments—at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions—before taking effect. It is the first pact to ask all countries to join the fight against global warming, representing a sea change in U.N. talks that previously required only wealthy nations to reduce their emissions.

"This is huge," tweeted U.S. President Barack Obama. "Almost every country in the world just signed on to the #ParisAgreement on climate change—thanks to American leadership."

The deal commits countries to keeping the rise in global temperatures by the year 2100 compared with pre-industrial times "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and says they will "endeavor to limit" them even more, to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times.

Ben Strauss, a sea level researcher at Climate Central, said limiting warming to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees could potentially cut in half the projected 280 million people whose houses will eventually be submerged by rising seas.

Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
Activists gather near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015 during the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. As organizers of the Paris climate talks presented what they hope is a final draft of the accord, protesters from environmental and human rights groups gather to call attention to populations threatened by rising seas and increasing droughts and floods. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

More than 180 countries have already presented plans to limit — a breakthrough in itself after years of stalemate. But those pledges are not enough to achieve the goals in the accord, meaning countries will need to cut much more to meet the goal.

"We've agreed to what we ought to be doing, but no one yet has agreed to go do it," said Dennis Clare, a negotiator for the Federated States of Micronesia. "It's a whole lot of pomp, given the circumstances."

The agreement sets a goal of getting global emissions to start falling "as soon as possible"; they have been generally rising since the industrial revolution.

It says wealthy nations should continue to provide financial support for poor nations to cope with and encourages other countries to pitch in on a voluntary basis. That reflects Western attempts to expand the donor base to include advanced developing countries such as China.

In a victory for small island nations, the agreement includes a section highlighting the losses they expect to incur from climate-related disasters that it's too late to adapt to. However, a footnote specifies that it "does not involve or provide any basis for any liability or compensation"—a key U.S. demand because it would let the Obama administration sign on to the deal without going through the Republican-led Senate.

The adoption of the agreement was held up for nearly two hours as the United States tried—successfully, in the end—to change the wording on emissions targets. The draft agreement had said developed countries "shall" commit to reducing emissions; in adopting the pact organizers changed the language to say those countries "should" make that commitment.

Experts said the final wording means the deal probably won't need congressional approval.

Nicaragua said it would not support the pact. Its envoy to the talks, Paul Oquist, said the agreement does not go far enough to cut global warming and help affected by it. Nicaragua is one of 10 participating countries that haven't submitted .

Thousands of protesters demonstrated across Paris with a similar message, saying the accord is too weak to save the planet. People held hands beneath the Eiffel Tower and stretched a two-kilometer-long (1.2-mile-long) banner from the Arc de Triomphe to the business district La Defense. Police authorized the protest despite a state of emergency declared after the deadly Nov. 13 attacks.

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace said the accord is a good start but isn't enough.

Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
French President Francois Hollande, left, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, center left, Christiana Figueres, 2nd right, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Foreign Affairs Minister and President-designate of COP21 Laurent Fabius, right, speak together at the end of a plenary session at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015 . Negotiators from around the world appear to be closing in on a landmark accord to slow global warming, with a possible final draft to be presented Saturday for a last round of debate at talks outside Paris. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool Photo via AP)
"Today the human race has joined in a common cause, but it's what happens after this conference that really matters," he said. "This deal alone won't dig us out the hole we're in, but it makes the sides less steep."

The accord does represent a breakthrough in climate negotiations. The U.N. has been working for more than two decades to persuade governments to work together to reduce the man-made emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

The previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, included only rich countries and the U.S. never signed on. The last climate summit, in Copenhagen in 2009, ended in failure when countries couldn't agree on a binding emissions pact.

The talks were initially scheduled to end Friday but ran over as Western powers, tiny Pacific island nations and everyone in between haggled over wording.

The main dispute centered over how to anchor the climate targets in a binding international pact, with China and other major developing countries insisting on different rules for rich and poor nations. The agreement struck a middle ground, removing a strict firewall between rich and poor nations and saying that expectations on countries to take climate action should grow as their capabilities evolve. It does not require them to do so.

Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
A couple kiss as activists demonstrate near the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015 during the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. As organizers of the Paris climate talks presented what they hope is a final draft of the accord, protesters from environmental and human rights groups gather to call attention to populations threatened by rising seas and increasing droughts and floods. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Some scientists who had criticized earlier drafts of the pact as unrealistic praised the final language for including language that essentially means the world will have to all but stop polluting with greenhouse gases by 2070 to reach the 2-degree goal, or by 2050 to reach the 1.5-degree goal.

That's because when emissions fall, nature compensates by absorbing less carbon dioxide—and can even release old pollution once there's less of it in the air, said Princeton University's Michael Oppenheimer. Forests, oceans and soil currently absorb about half the world's man-made .

Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
French President Francois Hollande, left, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, center, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon applaud at the COP21, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, north of Paris, Saturday, Dec.12, 2015. Fabius says a "final" draft of a global climate pact would be legally binding. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
"It means that in the end, you have to phase out carbon dioxide," said John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

In addition to the cuts in , the goal could be reached in part by increasing how much carbon dioxide is sucked out of the air by planting forests or with futuristic technology, said Princeton University's Michael Oppenheimer. But, he added, such technology would be expensive and might not come about.

Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meet on the sidelines of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, in Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris on Friday Dec. 11, 2015. (Mandel Ngan, Pool via AP)
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
The slogan "CLIMATE SIGN" is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
The slogan "CLIMATESIGN" is projected on the Eiffel Tower as part of the COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming
US Secretary of State John Kerry, shows off a bouquet which he received for his birthday from India's Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, right, following a meeting on the sidelines of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, in Le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris on Friday Dec. 11, 2015. (Mandel Ngan, Pool via AP)

Explore further: Highlights of the proposed UN climate accord

Related Stories

New draft climate deal emerges as Paris talks near end

December 11, 2015

Negotiators from China, the U.S. and other nations haggled into the early morning Friday over how to share the burden of fighting climate change and paying for a trillion-dollar transition to clean energy on a global scale.

India, Brazil resist bid for long-term carbon goals

December 2, 2015

Attempts to inscribe a long-term goal to phase out carbon emissions in an envisioned global climate pact are facing pushback at U.N. talks from big developing countries including India and Brazil.

Sleepless, tense climate negotiators haggle over Paris deal

December 10, 2015

Sleep-deprived and increasingly tense, diplomats and climate negotiators outside Paris struggled Thursday to narrow down a 29-page draft of an unprecedented deal to tackle climate change— but countries remained at odds ...

What would a strong climate pact look like?

December 10, 2015

Ministers from 195 nations entered the home stretch Wednesday of decades-long UN climate talks tasked with delivering a pact that can protect humanity from the ravages of runaway global warming.

Recommended for you

Scientists solve mystery shrouding oldest animal fossils

March 25, 2019

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered that 558 million-year-old Dickinsonia fossils do not reveal all of the features of the earliest known animals, which potentially had mouths and guts.

Earth's deep mantle flows dynamically

March 25, 2019

As ancient ocean floors plunge over 1,000 km into the Earth's deep interior, they cause hot rock in the lower mantle to flow much more dynamically than previously thought, finds a new UCL-led study.

9 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freeiam
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2015
Utterly laughable, except for the fact that probably no one was qualified to make a decision.
Only people without children are qualified if they don't fly all over the planet or drive diesel engines. Overpopulation causes excessive energy use and reduces the habitat of other animals (which is the real problem we face today, not one of the most beneficial molecules you can think of).
The climate farce is only intended to get a Nobel price or let China take over third world countries or show the dominance of the US; it's just a distractor to the real issues we face and a non problem in general.
Anyone serious would propose a reduction of the world population and a ban on real toxins like diesel fuel.

MR166
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2015
You have a point there Freelam. Banning all fossil fuels, especially diesel would certainly solve the population problem in just a few decades.
MR166
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2015
Of course, the West would cut down 99% of the worlds forests for fuel but that's OK I hear that pollen causes 100s of thousands of deaths each year.
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (9) Dec 13, 2015
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming

200 nations pledge to do something with which they have absolutely control. The Chicken Little Syndrome is alive and well, regardless of the fact that prominent/primary aspects of the Sun-Earth connection are completely ignored.

If they want to control the climate, they had better figure out a way to legislate the Sun.

https://www.youtu..._gLRIuGc
cantdrive85
2.3 / 5 (6) Dec 13, 2015
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming

200 nations pledge to do something with which they have absolutely control. The Chicken Little Syndrome is alive and well, regardless of the fact that prominent/primary aspects of the Sun-Earth connection are completely ignored.

If they want to control the climate, they had better figure out a way to legislate the Sun.

https://www.youtu..._gLRIuGc


Edit: 200 nations pledge to do something with which they have absolutely *NO* control.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 13, 2015
aspects of the Sun-Earth connection are completely ignored
@cd
a 3 second search refuted this claim
http://www.nature...040.html

http://sun.stanfo....web.pdf

http://iopscience....iop.org

http://www.cgd.uc...vity.pdf

http://individual...zone.pdf

http://citeseerx....type=pdf

i didn't have room for the 23 other studies i thought relevant and tied to this topic

of course, i can also list all the validating studies that support the above as well, if you like, but it would take (by my calculations) about 23 posts

you should learn to research before opening your mouth and demonstrating your fanatical cult leanings
katesisco
not rated yet Dec 13, 2015
Well, the 'what's up with that' site covers the assertions and I would like to point out the 4 year span time for withdrawl seems remarkably like the supposed ability for the EU nations to be able to ban GM foods but NO it has been ruled that would cause irreparable harm and cannot be allowed. May I suggest that this too will be found not allowable so the initial signing is binding in any event, no withdrawl.
leetennant
5 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2015
Two degrees is too much. But I guess we should be grateful there's agreement at all. Hopefully this is just the first step.
thefurlong
5 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2015
Nearly 200 nations pledge to slow global warming

200 nations pledge to do something with which they have absolutely control. The Chicken Little Syndrome is alive and well, regardless of the fact that prominent/primary aspects of the Sun-Earth connection are completely ignored.

If they want to control the climate, they had better figure out a way to legislate the Sun.

https://www.youtu..._gLRIuGc

AGW Proponent:
We know AGW is a problem because of the overwhelming evidence shown by both peer reviewed research and publicly available data, and because now the predicted effects of AGW are now being confirmed with carbon levels being higher than 400PPM ON AVERAGE, and small island countries slowly drowning under rising sea levels.

AGW Denier:
We know AGW is not a problem because of a Youtube video in which a single guy with fringe climate theories gave a speech at a conference for an overwhelmingly falsified pseudoscience field.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.