195 Countries Sign Historic Climate Agreement in Paris

President Obama speaks at the Paris Climate Talks

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the plenary session at the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change. (Photo credit: Eric Feferberg/AFP/ Getty Images)

On Saturday, December 12, delegates from 195 countries signed an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

The Paris Climate Talks, which began on November 30, included high-level dialogues, roundtables, debates, film screenings, and press conferences focused on climate change and climate change policy. President Barack Obama was among 150 heads of state and government that spoke at the conference.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and group of countries to go back home with their heads held high. Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort. Our responsibility to history is immense,” said Laurent Fabius, President of the COP 21 UN Climate change conference and French Foreign Minister.

According to the United Nations, the five main provisions of the agreement include:

Mitigation – reducing emissions at a quick enough pace to achieve the 2 degree Celsius temperature goal
Transparency – implementing an enhanced transparency framework for action and support among the agreement’s signatory countries Adaptation – solidifying each country’s ability to deal with climate impacts
Loss and damage – strengthening each country’s ability to recover from climate impacts, particularly those that are most vulnerable, such as island nations
Support – including financial backing, for developing nations to build clean, resilient futures

Each country is urged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible, though developing countries have a little more leeway in implementation. Signatory countries are also required to submit national climate action plans every five years to detail their future objectives for dealing with climate change issues.

Developed countries will also be required to contribute to a fund that is expected to have a balance of $100 billion (US) by 2020 to support developing countries in reaching their carbon emission goals.

Other provisions of the agreement include reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and implementing incentives for conservation and sustainable forest management.

Following the adoption of the agreement in Paris, it will be brought to United Nations headquarters in New York. It will be opened up for ratification signatures beginning on April 22, 2016 (Earth Day). The agreement will be enacted after 55 countries (that account for 55 percent of global emissions) have officially signed the agreement.

“We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said. “For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

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