clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nearly 200 countries reach landmark climate change deal in Paris

Carl Court/Getty Images

After weeks of negotiations in Paris, a coalition of nearly 200 countries has agreed to a landmark climate change pact. The deal, which unites an almost global group of the world's governments in a coordinated fight against climate change, will effectively curb fossil fuel emissions enough to combat the earth's rising temperatures, its signers say.

Plans to limit temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius

Participating in the talks were both large, wealthy countries such as the United States, as well as small island nations increasingly seeing the effects of climate change first hand. The new agreement, a final draft of which was released earlier in the day, aims to limit the world's expected atmospheric temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, while also making room for the more ambitious goal of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Climate scientists have said that stopping increases there may help fend off some of the worst effects of climate change.

Under the deal, individual countries will have individual plans to reduce emissions in the coming decades, with a schedule to jointly update their emissions standards in 2020 and further tighten standards every fives years from then, as The New York Times reports. Some parts of the deal will be essentially voluntary; others, under the agreement, are legally binding. The final draft agreement also made provisions for wealthier nations to economically support the smaller nations' efforts.

In an address to the nation later in the evening, President Obama called the deal "the best chance to save the one planet we have."

But the deal is not what everyone may have hoped for. The agreement does not, for example, allow for "liability or compensation" for the damage already brought by climate change — meaning countries responsible for large amounts of emissions will not have to retroactively pay for damage done to smaller countries. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was quick to say the deal "goes nowhere near far enough." James Hansen, a scientist well-known as the father of climate change awareness, bluntly called the talks "a fraud."

Deal doesn't allow for "liability or compensation" for damage

The deal is the result of the extended negotiations in Paris, which reached beyond their expected deadline before the release and approval of the draft. But the scope of the agreement is wider than just the past weeks of negotiations suggest, as countries around the world have worked toward an accord for years in an effort to come to an agreement on how to globally fight the effects of climate change.

Update 5:50PM ET: Includes information from Obama's address to the nation.