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The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (aka “COP21,” aka “CMP 11,” aka “Martha Stewart’s Cookware Extravaganza!”) has concluded and produced a 31-page plan to save the world. (That’s what they tell us anyway.)
The 195 nations involved have committed to limit global warming to “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (or two degrees Celsius … if you hate America). COP21 produced a “bottom-up system” (you’re going to hear that phrase a lot). Rather than try to impose one limit on everyone, each country will set its own goal (called a “nationally determined contribution”) and then submit a plan about how they’re going to do that. (The US has already pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels.) Then, starting in 2018, everybody will have to submit a new plan, raising their “nationally determined contribution,” every five years.
Why are they doing it this way? Well, developing countries have complained that rich nations are stifling their development by insisting on controlling carbon emissions. So with this “bottom-up system,” everybody gets to decide on their own “contribution” based on local needs and conditions. This can either be a good thing (it lets richer countries set higher goals for themselves without crushing developing countries) or a bad thing (countries set unrealistically low goals for themselves).
At this point the agreement will be “deposited” at United Nations headquarters where ambassadors will sign it in April. (Probably to much fanfare and many, many photo ops.) After that, once 55 countries sign on, it goes into effect on New Year’s Day 2020.
The “good” news is that this agreement was designed not to be a treaty, meaning that it doesn’t need Senate approval here in the US. So Congress (you know, the people’s elected representatives) doesn’t get to weigh in at all.
President Obama was upbeat about the agreement in his understated way. “I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world.” He thinks that it was “the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got.” (So, you know, when people point to this … mess of a presidency, he can at least point to the part where he saved the world.) The reality is that, between the bloviation, sweeping rhetoric, self-congratulation, and … everything else, it will be hard to know what the real value of this agreement will be for some time.
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