The Grassroots of Climate Change

The climate-change agreement reached in Paris this month was a victory for diplomacy – and a sea change in global policy, given the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009. Yet the Paris agreement marks the beginning, not the end, of the road, and it is ordinary citizens who will have to keep governments headed in the right direction.

PARIS – The climate-change agreement reached here on December 12 was a rich victory for diplomacy. Both the agreement itself and the atmosphere of cooperation that permeated the proceedings represent a sea change from the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009. But while we should congratulate world leaders on their success, Paris marks the beginning, not the end, of the road. It is now our collective duty to hold our leaders to account and ensure that they turn promises into action – especially in the world’s most vulnerable regions, such as Africa.

We should applaud China, India, the United States, and the European Union for their pre-Paris pledges on climate action. These countries’ commitments created the sense of responsibility, trust, and solidarity that enabled 195 nations not merely to agree on a one-off deal, but to set in motion a series of increasingly ambitious five-year cycles to phase out greenhouse-gas emissions this century. This is a clear signal that the carbon era has reached a turning point; as a result, there will be more investment in renewable energy.

Countries also promised to work harder to protect the world’s most vulnerable, by aiming to limit average global warming to as little as 1.5º Celsius above pre-industrial levels. And developed countries pledged at least $100 billion of annual climate finance to help the least developed countries cut their carbon emissions and prepare for climate change. For the first time, an international agreement offers the least developed countries funds to cover some of the loss and damage caused by climate shocks.

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