State of the Paris Climate Agreement

By Hannah Gartner 

Just under one year after the historic Paris Change Agreement was declared, it entered into force. This means that the treaty laid out in the agreement is now binding and that the countries who have both signed and ratified the Agreement can be held accountable. For this to happen 55 countries making up for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions were required to ratify their signatures. The United States (17.89% of global emissions) and China (20.09%), the world’s two greatest polluters, both ratified the agreement on September, 3rd 2016. However, it was not until October, 5th, when eleven countries making up 6.71% of global emissions ratified, that the agreement became binding.

Paris Agreement Map

All countries that signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 are shown in blue. Source- BBC

The primary goal of the Paris Agreement is to bring global greenhouse gas emissions down to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era. However, the treaty also outlines the more ambitious goal keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. Accomplishing this objective required all 194 countries that signed the treaty to set their own emission reduction standards depending on the infrastructure already in place and how much they contribute to overall emissions. Once the treaty was ratified these standards became binding, and any county that may want to opt out would have to go through a lengthy process and runs the risk of sanctions from the other members of the treaty.  Actually reaching these goals will be a lengthy, difficult process, something that is accounted for within the treaty. However, this doesn’t mean there is time before action must be taken.

 

Among the 129 countries that have ratified the agreement to date, many know this and have already begun to take clear and serious action towards moving our world towards a carbon neutral future. Over the last three years the level of global yearly emissions has inexplicably plateaued. Moreover, in the US, China, and Europe, there have been across the board reductions in the use of carbon. This is just the beginning of what needs to happen though. For one, reducing carbon is not enough. To get enough of the gas out of the atmosphere to stop catastrophic warming, scientists now warn that we must put increased energy into sequestration. Furthermore, reductions in carbon are just one aspect of the many changes that need to be made for humanity to achieve a heathy planet. One year into the Paris agreement, work has been done, but in many ways what is done just shows how much more there is to do.

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