Elsewhere, the pact has provisions aimed at mobilizing finance to help developing nations battle climate change, and bolstering work to help countries improve their ability to adapt to inevitable changes.
Here are five important things about the “Paris Agreement” and its aftermath:
It’s Not Truly Over.
The new pact leaves many important decisions for the future.
That’s not a bad thing, per se. Having countries revise their carbon-cutting pledges on a five-year basis, as State Department climate envoy Todd Stern has pointed out, provides chances to ratchet up ambition as low-carbon technologies (and hopefully pro-climate political will) advance.
But even the immediate post-Paris period will be important in determining how successful the pact is. Let’s turn it over to Michael Levi, a climate policy analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, who shared some thoughts he’s putting into a blog post. Levi warns against judging the pact too quickly, noting:
“Its first test will be in the coming days and weeks as leaders and major media around the world talk about the deal. What leaders say will signal how much they see the Paris deal as settled and how they interpret the language that treats developed and developing countries differently. How the media describe the Agreement will shape how the broader public views it, and hence how much of a penalty leaders might face for later backtracking or spinning what the deal says.”
Levi also notes that big decisions loom one year from now, when negotiators flesh out provisions in the Paris agreement on transparency and review nations’ pledges, and then the “biggest test” looms in five years when countries are slated to offer new carbon-reduction plans.
Capitol Hill Republicans Want a Bite, But (Probably) Won’t Get It
Republicans are itching for a chance to scuttle the deal, arguing that it’s going to lock the U.S. into an economy-killing emissions reduction scheme. As an international agreement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have argued that the Senate should give the deal its consent 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was rejected by the Senate.
That’s why the Obama administration pushed for a hybrid deal, in which countries set voluntary emission-reduction plans, and the U.N. ratchets up transparency and reporting mechanisms to keep everyone on track. True to form, the final U.N. agreement doesn’t mandate any emissions targets, but does lay out a system for countries to submit new pledges (called Nationally Determined Contributions) every five years, starting in 2020. The accord also sets up meetings every five years starting in 2023 to take stock of where countries are and calls on the U.N. to devise a system for countries to report progress, relying on the existing climate-change convention that the U.S. ratified in 1992.