Early this Sunday, UN representatives from around the world reached the first-ever climate change agreement that commits all 196 nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Unprecedented in its inclusion of developing nations, the historic agreement was reached after long talks that ran 30 hours in overtime at the Lima climate conference. This diplomatic breakthrough however, is already under heavy fire by disappointed activists who call it “very weak.” Climate scientists also warn that the proposed carbon cuts will not be nearly enough to slow dangerous rates of warming.
This weekend’s debates over the UN’s new framework for global climate policy were rife with disagreements as the rich developed countries and poorer developing nations clashed over how to share the burden of emission reductions. Although a compromise was reached after two days of talks, the final draft has been criticized for being too watered down, “weak and ineffectual,” especially with changes in language that grant countries more leniency on how they choose to monitor their carbon cutting progress. For instance, countries “may” instead of “shall” offer quantifiable information on how they plan to achieve emission targets.
Still, the Lima Accord compromise marks the first-ever international agreement between all countries and represents international consensus to collectively curb emissions. Over the next six months, all nations will need to develop and submit a detailed policy plan on cutting domestic greenhouse gas emissions. Those plans would then need to be signed by world leaders at COP21 in Paris of next year and put into effect by 2020.
Reaching a Paris deal, however, will be far from easy. Many still unanswered questions on the economic fairness of spreading the burden of cutting emissions and the unresolved divisions between the rich and poor nations will stall progress. And by popular climate scientist estimates, the Lima Accord commitments don’t even come close to preventing the projected 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase, a rate of warming that if left unchecked, could change our planet in devastating and irreversible ways.