Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Big, Big, Big, Big Deal

The Paris COP 21 talks have produced a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions in an unprecedented accord that covers 195 countries.  Well, 194 countries if you, like me, believe that Republicans will never allow the agreement to be ratified in the United States.

With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 countries reached a landmark climate accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change.

Delegates who have been negotiating intensely in this Paris suburb for two weeks gathered for the final plenary session, where Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France asked for opposition to the deal and, hearing none, declared it approved.

With that, the delegates achieved what had been unreachable for two decades: a consensus on the need to shift from carbon-based fuels and a road map for the 195 nations to do so.

Though the deal did not achieve all that environmentalists, scientists and some countries had hoped for, it set the table for more efforts to slow the slide toward an unlivable planet.

The deal resolves the main GOP talking point: that without cooperation and carbon emission limits from China and India, any deal was worthless and would only serve to cost US jobs.

At its heart is a breakthrough on an issue that foiled decades of international efforts to address climate change. Previous pacts required developed economies like the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but exempted developing countries such as China and India.

The new accord changes that dynamic, requiring action in some form from every country. But the echoes of the divide persisted during the negotiations.

Delegates received the final draft of the document Saturday afternoon, after a morning when the text was promised but repeatedly delayed. They immediately began parsing it for language that had been the subject of energetic debate, in preparation for a voice vote on whether the deal should become law.

All evening, tense excitement was palpable. The delegates rose to their feet to thank the French team, which drew on the finest elements of the country’s traditions of diplomacy to broker a deal acceptable to all sides.

France’s European partners recalled the coordinated Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and threatened to cast a shadow over the negotiations. But, bound by a collective good will toward France, countries redoubled their efforts.

Now of course comes the part where Republicans (and oil and coal state Democrats) block the deal from ever being binding in the US, which will assure other countries will fail to follow the deal too, and like Kyoto, it all becomes meaningless.

We had a good run on Earth, but the Paris COP 21 talks will almost certainly be seen as our last chance getting away from us.

That is if there's anyone left to care about the history of humanity.

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