The agreement reached in Paris this weekend has been praised as a feat of international diplomacyby Josh Lowe / December 14, 2015 / Leave a comment
“The world’s greatest diplomatic success,” was how a Guardian headline described the historic international climate deal reached in Paris this weekend. But what does this feat of diplomacy actually mean? Here are seven things you need to know (and you can read the full text for yourself here)
The difference a degree makes
You’ll read three numbers everywhere in discussion of the deal: 2.7 degrees, two degrees and 1.5 degrees. All are important. The first is (roughly) the level of global warming above pre-industrial levels which we will hit if every country sticks to its individually determined plan for reducing carbon emissions. The second is the objective set by the Paris agreement for a maximum level of warming (strictly, the deal says we need to limit warming to “well below” this level). The third is a sort of bonus aim contained in the agreement—an ideal target to aim for rather than one we have to hit. Two degrees is the level generally agreed by experts as the maximum amount of warming which won’t be totally disastrous. But 1.5 would be a much better bet and the differences between 1.5 and two are stark—for example, a rise of two degrees could see up to a 15 per cent bigger reduction in water availability in some of the earth’s driest regions compared to a rise of 1.5 degrees. So each country has plenty more to do before we’re even hitting the least ambitious target in the deal.
Do we have to?
The deal is a mix of legally mandatory obligations and voluntary commitments. The individual countries’ emissions plans are voluntary, but the framework for reporting on progress and tightening those plans is mandatory. Countries are required to reconvene every five years starting in 2020 with updated, stricter plans. They are also required to reconvene every five years from 2023 to report on how well they’re doing in cutting emissions compared to their plans. They are required to monitor their progress according to a set framework. The New York…