Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How world leaders came to agree on a landmark climate deal

...One of the major reasons negotiators were able to reach a deal was that much of the work had been done in advance. By the time Paris rolled around, more than 150 countries had promised to change the way they use energy, detailing those changes in the form of individual commitments. Known as INDCs, these pledges formed the basis of Saturday’s deal. Of course, the INDCs won’t be legally binding, and even if most countries do manage to live up to their promises, they aren’t yet ambitious enough to prevent dangerous levels of warming...The Paris summit began as the largest meeting of government leaders in history (outside the U.N. building in New York) just two weeks after ISIS-affiliated terrorists killed 130 people across the city. While French officials immediately promised the talks would continue, they soon banned long-planned, massive climate protests, citing security concerns...But the climate talks themselves went ahead as planned. Some 40,000 heads of state, diplomats, scientists, activists, policy experts, and journalists descended on the French capital for the event. Perhaps the biggest factor driving the negotiators’ unprecedented optimism was the fact that the two biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and the world’s two biggest economies — the United States and China — had made a public show of working together to get an agreement. A landmark climate deal between the two countries in November 2014 built critical momentum. China later promised to create a national cap-and-trade program to augment a suite of emissions control policies. The Obama administration, meanwhile, pushed through its Clean Power Plan regulations, despite aggressive resistance from Republicans. Still, as the talks neared their conclusion on Friday, tensions were rising between the so-called “High Ambition Coalition” — a negotiating bloc including the United States, the European Union, and dozens of developing countries — and China and India. Nevertheless, a rare alliance between world leaders ultimately prevailed: Pope Francis, for one, campaigned tirelessly for a climate deal ahead of the talks, decrying the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.” All of this cleared the way for large groups of developed and developing countries to cooperate at the talks. Bigger countries appeared ready to work with the 43-country-strong negotiating bloc of highly vulnerable developing nations. Recent changes of leadership in Canada and Australia, notable adversaries of climate action in recent years, switched these mid-sized players into fans of a deal before the talks. Even Russia’s Vladimir Putin seemed to have an 11th-hour change of heart — or, at least, of rhetoric — and called for action...more

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