President Obama and over 200 world leaders reached a historic climate change deal on Saturday, pledging to fight climbing temperatures and rising seas and delivering a major victory to President Obama, who has made climate change a key part of his presidency. The pact is the most aggressive international plan ever put in place to combat climate change and comes after more than two decades of often tortured United Nations talks that have pitted the U.S. and other industrialized nations against poor countries over who should shoulder the burden for protecting the planet from the greenhouse gases spewed by smokestacks and tailpipes.
The deal, which is the product of two weeks of tense negotiations, won’t by itself do enough to stop damaging temperature rises. But negotiators said the pact is a down payment on a decades-long push to bring emissions into balance by the end of the century. he Paris Agreement, the document submitted by host France calls for limiting rising temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels by the year 2100. But it keeps the door open to a more ambitious 1.5-degree (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) rise sought by some small island nations threatened by rising sea levels — one of many catastrophic consequences of global warming. Pope Francis, who has urged a vigorous fight against global warming, has endorsed the tougher target.
The deal also pledges financial support from rich, developed nations to developing countries as they begin to adopt changes needed to meet the temperature targets. French President Francois Hollande told delegates that the future of the planet was in their hands.
It is rare to have an opportunity to change the world,” Hollande told the negotiators. “You have it and you must grasp it.”
Now that the world leaders have reached an agreement, the deal must be approved by 55% of the countries national legislatures. ratification requires approval of at least 55 countries who must sign on before 2020. Two-thirds of the U.S. Senate must sign off on a treaty before it can be ratified. That could be difficult to do in a Republican-controlled Senate that counts climate change skeptics among its members (including the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe) and has sought to block President Barack Obama’s actions on climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions was concluded in 1997. In the United States, the Clinton administration signed the agreement but, fearing defeat, never submitted it to the Senate for ratification. In the streets of Paris, outside the conference, protesters demanded action. #ParisAgreement was trending on Twitter. Members of the scientific and environmental activist communities responded with varying degrees of optimism after the draft agreement was issued earlier Saturday. Another issue, according to observers, was whether there would be reparations paid to countries that will see irreparable damage from climate change but have done almost nothing to cause it.