Laurent Fabius has brought the gavel down on a successful deal. Reuters/Stephane Mahe
Professor of Business and Government, Harvard University
Robert N. Stavins receives funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Enel Foundation.
The Conversation is funded by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knight Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Alfred P Sloan Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation and the Simons Foundation. Our global publishing platform is funded by Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The Paris Agreement is a truly landmark climate accord, and checks all the boxes in my five-point scorecard for a potentially effective deal. It provides a broad foundation for meaningful progress on climate change, and represents a dramatic departure from the Kyoto Protocol and the past 20 years of climate negotiations.
In Paris, representatives of 195 countries (plus the European Union) adopted a new hybrid international climate policy architecture that includes: bottom-up elements in the form of “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (INDCs), which are national targets and actions that arise from national policies; and top-down elements for oversight, guidance, and coordination. Now, all countries will be involved in taking actions to reduce emissions.
Remarkably, 186 of the 196 parties to the agreement submitted INDCs by the end of the Paris talks, representing some 96% of global emissions. This broad scope of participation under the new agreement is a necessary condition for meaningful action – but, of course, it is not a sufficient condition.
Also required is adequate ambition of the individual contributions. But this is only the first step with this new approach. The INDCs will be assessed and revised every five years, with their collective ambition ratcheted up over time.
That said, even this initial set of contributions could cut anticipated temperature increases this century to about 3.5℃ – more than the frequently discussed aspiration of limiting temperature increases to 2℃ (or now, under the Paris deal, potentially to 1.5℃), but much less than the 5-6℃ increase that would be expected without this action. (An amendment to the Montreal Protocol to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) is likely to shave off a further 0.5℃ of warming.)
The problem has not been solved, and it will not be for years to come, but the new approach brought about by the Paris Agreement can be a key step toward reducing the threat of global climate change.
The new climate agreement, despite being pathbreaking and the result of what The New York Times rightly described as “an extraordinary effort at international diplomacy”, is only a foundation for moving forward. But it is a sufficiently broad and sensible foundation to make increased ambition over time feasible for the first time.
Global Climate Change