Despite being pushed into overtime and nearly being tripped up by the meaning of a singular ‘shall’ instead of ‘should,’ the negotiations among 195 countries for a sweeping plan to combat climate change came to an end at the UN climate conference of parties.
The agreement that emerged will create a bottom-up system that allows countries to set their own goals for reducing carbon emissions and how it plans to achieve those goals. They’ll have to increase those goals over time, and submit a new plan every five years, starting in 2018.
The agreement isn’t etched in stone yet; it will still have to be approved by 55 countries that plan to implement it, and those 55 countries must collectively be responsible for 55% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
While many are celebrating the agreement as a landmark event in the global fight against climate change, others are skeptical about how much the agreement will actually change and whether certain countries will be able and/or willing to live up to their end of the bargain. Others worry that the lack of a mechanism to punish countries who don’t meet the goals they set for themselves will undermine the transparency and accountability at the heart of this agreement.
Still, supporters say that the way the agreement is structured requires countries to take inventory of and report their sources of carbon emissions, and hope that will help hold countries accountable.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council
Frank V. Maisano, a Senior Principal at the international energy lobbying firm Bracewell & Guiliani in the firm’s government relations and strategic communications practice