“Should” vs “Shall”

There are two observations that I made when I first began observing the climate negotiations this year.  First, it was amazing how fifty, sixty, seventy, one hundred countries could spend obscene amounts of time debating just one word in one line in one paragraph in an entire text.  Negotiators would go back and forth expressing often passionate views on why or why not a specific word was the right choice.  In agreements as broad as the draft Paris agreement, individual words still greatly mattered.  Second, I found it fascinating that these words often had very different meanings and connotations for each nation and each culture, making it all the more difficult to reach consensus.  Even once a word is agreed upon in English, it has to then be translated and undergo scrutiny from parties to assure the text is a uniform one when it’s sent back to parliaments, legislative bodies, presidents, prime ministers, kings and queens, etc.

It not all too surprising, then, that just one single word almost resulted in the near-collapse of two very hard fought weeks of progress in Paris.  Just as the final plenary session was set to begin on Saturday night, Dec. 12th, the United States negotiating team led by Secretary of State John Kerry noticed a line in Article 4 (the article dealing with mitigation) of the proposed agreement that read,

“Developed country Parties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets”

What the US had been negotiating for (and thought they had achieved) was a line that was supposed to read,

“Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets”


There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between those two sentences, but that single discrepancy was a deal breaker for the US team.  If the words weren’t switched, the United States would not be a party to the agreement.  With the plenary session already delayed way past its intended start time, this 11th hour realization set off a fresh frenzy of apprehension and anxiety as negotiations and COP staff huddled to resolve the issue.  In the end, the United States got its way and the wording was changed.  As the plenary session began, the COP President Laurent Fabius called for the clerk to read a list of typographical errors that would be fixed in the final agreement.  Along with grammatical and spelling errors, it was announced that “shall” would be changed to “should” and that was that.  Minutes later, Fabius hammered his neon-green leaf shaped gavel and the agreement was adopted.

So why exactly was “shall” such a deal breaker for the United States?  In short, the word “shall” in the past has implied a legal obligation.  In this context, the “shall” wording would legally bind developed countries (including the United States) to set definite greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.  So where’s the problem?  The Obama administration has already rolled out the Clean Power Plan, which does just that–it sets definable and measurable emission reduction targets.  The problem comes from the fact that any international agreement that legally binds the United States to emission targets will have to be submitted to the Senate for ratification.  With the Senate vowing to kill any Paris deal placed in front of them, President Obama and his team were adamant that the final Paris text COULD NOT include language that binds the United States to internationally-mandated emission cuts.  Doing so would result in the undermining of all the work being done to push the Clean Power Plan, which is already on somewhat shaky legal grounds.

Thankfully, the issue was resolved and the crisis was averted.  But all the same, the “shall” controversy shows us yet another example of how fragile these climate negotiations are.  It is another case in which to be impressed and take pride in the fact that almost 200 countries were eventually able to agree on every single word in a 30 page document.  For this reason and many others, Paris should be considered a huge success.

Addressing climate change through the lens of ecosystem based risk reduction

During the second week of COP21, I attended a panel discussion event named “ecosystem based disaster-risk reduction: tools, processes and good practices” in IUCN Pavilion.

The keynote speaker was Erik Solheim from OECD. He gave two examples, Bangladesh and Indonesia, to illustrate that after catastrophic events, people learn to be more prepared and become more adapted to extreme weather. Climate change is a huge amplifier of tendency. People have always been adapting to climate change. The new element is that things happen much faster. A strong civil society could make climate change adaptation possible.

Four panelists were invite give presentations and share different perspectives on the topic. Jacqueline McGlade, a chief scientist from UNEP, pointed out that Eba is already pervasive in UNEP’s projects now. However, we should be conscious that they might not be operating the way they used to know. She summarized several ways they conduct on the ground projects: pilot demonstrations and capacity building through online courses and graduate curriculum. The challenge, however, is how to update the local community with knowledge to react. From her perspective, self-reliance is fundamental to risk reduction. Last but not least, she noted that it is clear that women are long-term reliable mechanism. We need to fix micro finance and micro insurance for them.

Keith Anderson from FOEN in Switzerland shared the history of Eba in Switzerland. Eba started in 1951 with the first attempt to create hazard maps as a result of avalanches. By 2014, most of the Swiss cantons got their own hazard maps. In the meantime, planning has transformed from defense against hazards to integrated risk management. Switzerland is particularly vulnerable as temperature has increased since the 1860s. He highlighted multiple aspects of their system: structural safety, serviceability and durability. Their experience and concept can be useful to specific conditions.

Anne Hammil, director of resilience from IISD introduced software called Cristal Park to the audience. This tool was developed to help those working on the ground understand livelihood and support community level risk management. Lastly, Meeta Pradham fomr The Mountain Institute in Nepal talked about their experience and challenge dealing with Nepal 2015 earthquake. The catastrophic earthquake had been expected for many years. However, not until it actual happened did they realize how little prepared they are. Some major issues embedded in the society made the earthquake even worse: 1.Ineqaulity; the earthquake affects poor in the rural area most. 2. Social dimensions; it exacerbated preexisting inequity in gender and class. 3. Mountain vs. plain; the community in mountain area is doubly affected.


Meeta’s presentation on vulnerability in disasters in Nepal  

This event presented a balanced view on Eba with abundance of examples from both developing and developed countries. However, as one audience member noted, it is hard to change people’s perception on disaster. We are unlikely to be fully alert about disaster until it actual takes place. Jacqueline gave a potential solution to this problem – community leadership. The focal point is the community leaders who speak in power. We need to invest time and efforts on them. “Sometimes, even just giving them a cheap phone is helpful. Local change is the precursor to the wide change. “

Makani: The coolest thing I saw at COP21


In the Climate Generations area, I had the chance to see a presentation by Makani, Google’s incredibly innovative wind power company. Makani was acquired by Google’s secretive ‘[x]’ R&D division in 2013, it generates wind energy using giant drone-kites, and it’s exactly as cool as it sounds.

These “energy kites” are unspooled from an ultra-strong ground tether, reaching massively higher altitudes — and thus dramatically higher wind speeds — than traditional wind turbines. When they reach these winds, the kites arc through the wind, capturing power with incredible efficiency. When the wind dies down, the kites hover down to the ground and the tether is reeled in. With their small footprint and greater ability to capture sufficiently-fast winds, Makani’s energy kites are also suitable for locations that currently find wind power difficult to implement — including, potentially, offshore applications.

Makani’s technology has potentially game-changing implications for the wind power industry. I strongly encourage everyone to watch the absolutely fascinating demonstration video of a Makani energy kite in action on YouTube.

Explaining Paris

Post Paris Refections:

Like many in the climate community, I am elated following the Paris Agreement. This was a moment 23 years in the making! Something that once seemed impossible. Being a part of this class was special: it made us feel like we contributed in some small way.

There was a constant stream of group messages from Paris and watch parties in Durham. As soon as it was released, we all read the text simultaneously with everyone immediately sharing what they learned. What pieces stayed in….What was controversial….Usually referencing a subject or article that they personally cared about. Outside of our text chain, suddenly, the entire world was paying attention to something that we had been zeroed in on for months. We soon became subject matter experts and were placed in an interesting position. Our friends at Duke were now asking us: What Happened? Why does it matter?

To put this into perspective, on Saturday, I got a few texts from business school students. A few screenshots of their phones when they received the news update with a captions that said “you were right”. The majority wanted to let me know that they heard about the deal, but a few wanted to know what I thought. What to say?

I think to fully appreciate the Paris agreement you have to understand the nuances behind the negotiations, the way that climate masks the other geopolitical struggles between nations, the long history of developed versus developing nations, how Kyoto failed, how a bottom up approach is being tested over a top-down, how the US ratifies treaties versus agrees to, well, agreements. So, how to explain all that, especially to those that don’t care about climate? I don’t know but I’m slowly learning.

I try and make 3 simple points.

1. This “really is a big deal”: I start with the fact that it was the largest gathering of heads of state in history and that there has never been anything like this before. The first universal, legally binding climate agreement! If I have more time, I talk about the nuance of legally binding. Targets are non-binding/non legal but the process and procedures are. With more time, I try make the point that Kyoto failed for reasons that this agreement avoids. Even if it hadn’t failed, only had a small percentage of large polluters committing to anything. This has the entire world!

2. 2 degrees with a 1.5 degree aspirational goal, 5 year review of INDCS, and $100BN a year by 2020 floor: I will talk about how important the 1.5 degrees are for island nations. What climate finance means and the differences between mitigation, adaptation, and loss and damage. Lastly, what an INDC is and how that approach, while non-binding, is revolutionary.

3. Framework not the targets: Lastly, I remind people that while the targets are incredibly important, the greatest part of this agreement is that we have changed the framework. We have a new way to approach and tackle one of the most difficult problems on Earth. And, it is one that the entire world agreed to. I can’t believe it.

It’s not perfect, but it is my attempt to battle the curse of knowledge and attempt to convey all that we have learned over the last few months, because finally the world is listening!

What the business community thinks of Paris (as of December 16, 2015)

It has been four days, and those who are interested have had time to comb through the text of the Paris Agreement.

As my last post indicated, this has been a fascinating semester, and I look forward to following these issues for many years to come! What follows is an (early and brief) evaluation of the ‘forecasts’ I made about the business sector’s position during COP 21 (see http://sites.duke.edu/duketoparis/2015/11/30/expected-business-community-positions-at-cop-21/).

The three major themes I predicted for the private sector (represented at COP 21 by the BINGO group (Business and Industry NGOs) with the International Chamber of Commerce as the business and industry focal point) were:

  1. A call for clear signals to the private sector on the future of climate policy.
  2. Promotion of party consultation with the private sector on INDCs.
  3. Strong advocacy around enabling environments for private investment.

My main takeaways from four days of news are:

  • Post-Paris, the business community is even more focused on national-level regulation and implications for competitiveness, cost, and policy stability.
  • The private sector did ‘win’ by securing a mention in Article 6 regarding the implementation of INDCs.
  • The private sector response to the Paris Agreement appears split along predictable lines according to industry (tech: positive and approving, oil and gas: skeptical to say the least) and whether or not companies had already taken a progressive stance on climate issues and a proactive policy towards transition to a low carbon economy.

It’s almost amazing how quickly the reporting on Paris shifted from ‘Can you believe it! We have an agreement!’ to ‘So now what?’ The business community may be split on whether or not the Paris Agreement is a welcome development, but companies seem universally concerned with questions of implementation. As noted by both Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama on December 12th (and oft remarked by business leaders), it’s the private sector that will actually have to do the work of transitioning to a low carbon (or even emission free?) economy.

So what can we expect from the private sector and climate policy in upcoming years? I predict that we’ll see more companies accepting that it’s both a requirement and a potential business opportunity to transition to lower carbon practices and to invest in that transition. But I also think we’ll see continued pressure on national governments to ease in any climate regulation slowly and in a ‘business friendly’ manner. A relatively positive and pragmatic view comes from ‘We Mean Business’ – a coalition of companies working to “to amplify the business voice, catalyze bold climate action by all, and promote smart policy frameworks,” and their position is summarized in the video below.

The UN carbon market is dead. Long live the UN carbon market!

Given its struggles with ensuring and verifying real emission reductions, the Clean Development Mechanism — a mechanism allowing developed countries to partially meet their goals by financing projects in developing countries — had always been one of the most controversial aspects of the UN climate regime. There has an ongoing debate about whether the UNFCCC would double down on its existing mechanisms or scrap them in favor of a new approaches — or even multiple new approaches.

Over the final few days of the COP, the issue of carbon markets finally reared its ugly head in the negotiations — even if the COP does appear to have developed an allergy to the term itself. In the text, markets are nestled under the euphemistic term “cooperative approaches.”

As the negotiations went on, the issue grew increasingly contentious. The early November text contained four options for such “cooperative approaches” — two of which merely acknowledged their importance in a single sentence and one of which was to exclude the section entirely. By December 5th, bracketed (contested) text was inserted specifying the promotion of sustainable development in developing countries as the object of the mechanism. More of the CDM-esque language was removed, and a full second option — eschewing markets in favor of “non-market-based approaches and “technology transfer” — was also added. This option was pushed by certain anti-market parties — notably, Bolivia.

In the face of this threat, Brazil and the EU jointly announced a proposal for new text on carbon markets. This text, still leaving open the issue of whether developing countries would be the focus or not, explicitly supported the inclusion of “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes” and the establishment of a new mechanism in service of this goal — a clear (and very strong) call for carbon markets in the Paris agreement. This call was incorporated into the December 9 text, which included much of that language in a condensed form. In the last draft before the agreed copy of the agreement, carbon markets constituted the vast bulk of the bracketed text — one of the only major issues left unresolved.

And the final text is out, agreed to, and there’s a new mechanism — very, very new.

Parties shall, where engaging on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions …

A mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development is hereby established under the authority and guidance of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement for use by Parties on a voluntary basis.

Reading between the lines, this appears to be a mechanism that will allowing developing and developed countries to trade emissions reductions amongst themselves — in the manner of Joint Implementation — trading between developing countries under the current regime — but likely incorporating many of the methodologies of the CDM. The new mechanism will use a share of its proceeds to fight adaptation.

In all aspects, this seems a significant step forward — a step, perhaps, toward a global UN carbon market with a level playing field. The specific rules and bodies governing this mechanism will be established over the following years — we can only hope that it learns from the pitfalls of its predecessors.

Swag, Spectacle, & Shame at COP21

From the moment you enter, it’s hard to overlook the material excess of COP21. A series of immense, COP21-dedicated hangars — the interiors of each decorated in a style that can only be described as “IKEA does Epcot” — loom over a main thoroughfare. Inside, the countries’ pavilions occasionally border on the absurd; it is difficult, for instance, to make a case for the Indian pavilion’s massive, word-illustrating fountain, no matter how many pro-climate messages it spouts.

The immoderation on display becomes even harder to ignore when you pass the dozens — hundreds? — of more-or-less interchangeable NGO stations, each adorned with a small mountain range of documents and publications for passersby to take. Someone told me that COP21 was paper-free. That person was a liar, and “paper-free” is an inaccuracy so staggering it would make climate change deniers blush.

As an attendee, you become complicit in the materialism almost immediately: every badge-holder is greeted with an official COP21 gift bag. To their credit, this contains mostly useful objects — writing utensils, a water bottle, and so forth. But then the venue’s “reuseable” coffee cups — offered in a host of sleek, COP21-themed designs — begin to disappear. Some simply end up in recycling bins.

Most find their way into attendees’ newly-issued bags.

This is how it begins.

Despite my ostensible environmentalism, I find my eyes wandering in that most illicit of ways. One more poster couldn’t hurt, I tell myself. And I could always use another pen. After all, I’ve been working so very hard to save the planet. After a few days, my colleagues begin to put in orders with me: want a COP21 cup with a specific design? You got it. Need some stickers? A button? I’m your guy. Slowly but surely, my official COP21 bag begins to strain under the weight of environmental swag. “I used to be a sweater!” the text on the front of my bag happily proclaims. “Only God can forgive me now,” I tell the bag. As I lie down for my four hours of sleep, I ponder what I have become.

Any mail sent on-site is adorned with an exclusive COP21 stamp and postmark (a must-have for the true COP21 swag completionist). I soon realize that a single, tiny shop stationed in the middle of the thoroughfare holds a complete monopoly on postcard sales within the venue. Each day, I witness the Shop’s owner reclined in his chair, smugly surveying his kingdom. Everyone — party members, NGOs, and academics alike — makes their pilgrimage to the Shop. (By the end of the COP, only the dregs of the Parisian postcard design scene remain.) As I procure my own postcards, I realize that I am a mere pawn to this titan of COP21’s materialist underworld. My empire is but dust.

Eventually, the COP comes to a close. The Shop is dismantled, I board my plane with a shamefully overstuffed suitcase, and — most importantly, of course — the world emerges with an ambitious and far-reaching climate deal delivered by champions of restraint and sustainability. Still, musing on the culture of the thing, I find myself thinking back to one moment in particular — a high-level official, power-walking down the hall in intense conversation, turns quickly to me and gasps.

“Oh my god!” she says. “Where did you get that calendar?

Post-Paris: Our INDC and the Clean Power Plan

The Paris Agreement is a huge deal, and we should all take a moment to celebrate.

Ok. Was that fun? Good, because now begins the hard work of following through on the US’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC. An INDC is a country’s own roadmap for cutting emissions. Instead of dictating terms to countries, the UNFCCC invited countries to submit their own plans. To date, the UNFCCC has received 158 submissions reflecting 185 countries (including the European Union member states).

US emissions INDC
source: http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/United%20States%20of%20America/1/U.S.%20Cover%20Note%20INDC%20and%20Accompanying%20Information.pdf

Climate Action Tracker reviewed INDCs from the world’s heaviest emitters and rated most plans ‘medium’ or ‘inadequate.’ The US scored ‘medium.’ Climate Action Tracker judged the US’s plan to be “at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution,” adding that if every other country were only as ambitious as the United States, “global temperature increase would be well above 2°C.”

But INDCs are meant to be revisited and, ideally, tweaked to be more ambitious. Like an orthodontist tightening braces, the plans can be adjusted.

The US pledged a 26-28% emissions reduction from 2005 levels by 2025, and a key part of reaching that goal is the Clean Power Plan. When the Senate scuttled cap-and-trade in 2009, Obama needed a new environmental strategy. The Clean Power Plan uses the EPA’s authority to limit smokestack emissions. States have until 2018 to devise plans to cut emissions any way they’d like, but if states don’t comply, the EPA will draw plans for them.

Twenty-six states, including North Carolina, joined in a lawsuit to contend the EPA overstepped its authority. The D.C. circuit may not rule on the case until late next year or 2017, and if the case ends up in the Supreme Court, as some watchers predict, we may not have a final ruling until 2018. In the meantime, several states are pursuing a policy of simultaneously challenging the plan and preparing for it.

All of which brings us back to post-Paris and that INDC. The US’s plans are ambitious but need to go further. State-level policymakers, meanwhile, need to see that the public, including industry, is behind meaningful emissions cuts. NC officials will host three public hearings this week on the Clean Power Plan, and I encourage locals to read more about the plan and to lend their support this week:

  • 6 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Chamber, 600 East Fourth St., Charlotte.
  • 6 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Archdale Building, Ground Floor Hearing Room, 512 North Salisbury St., Raleigh.
  • 6 p.m. Jan. 5, 2016 at the Roland Grise Middle School Auditorium, 4412 Lake Avenue, Wilmington.

Technology Transfer and the Paris Agreement

As a teacher, I loved asking students what they thought this picture showed. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but blown up on a projector screen at the front of a classroom, I think this image is worth way more than that. If you look closely, you can see the border between North and South Korea, a string of light clinging to the Nile, and even the outline of the E105 linking Moscow to St. Petersburg.
World at Night Light

Most people say this picture shows population, and they’re half-right. In the West,  electrical output is a handy stand-in for population, so we see bright lights covering the eastern United States and most of Europe. Population only tells part of the story, though. My students were surprised to see that Nigeria (outlined in green on the left) has 55 million more people than Japan (outlined in green on the right). Ethiopia (bottom red) has 9 million more people than Germany (top red).

The picture doesn’t just show population, then. It really shows uneven access to power. Seven out of ten people in Sub-Sahara Africa lack access to electricity. Many of the least bright portions of the map are also the quickest growing and quickest developing, so the methods developing countries use to generate electricity will have huge implications for future emissions.

That’s where technology transfer comes in. Technology transfer is an umbrella term for moving know-how, experience, and equipment aimed at adaptation or mitigation across countries, usually from developed countries to developing ones. Technology transfer was one of the most contentious issues negotiators hashed out in Paris, as the shifting language in the drafts showed.

Before Bonn Intersession:

In the shortened 20-page non-paper released by the ADP October 5, technology transfer merited a brief mention in Article 6 (Finance) and a short section that encouraged parties to strengthen policy frameworks to foster innovation, attract private sector investments, and develop their own capacities and technologies.

After Bonn Intersession:

The draft agreement released after the Bonn intersessional meeting on October 23 saw a renewed interest in technology transfer. An article 3 bracket explicitly called for developed countries to “provide new and additional financial resources, technology transfer and capacity building to meet the full costs incurred by developing country Parties in complying with their obligations under this Article.” Remarkably, the text also featured an option calling for developed countries “to meet the full costs of IPRs of environmentally sound technologies and know-how, and such technologies will be provided to developing country Parties free of cost in order to enhance their actions to address climate change.” No one thought either of these options would wind up in the final text, but they represent one end of the bargaining spectrum going into Paris.

In the final Paris Agreement:

The final text is predictably light on specifics, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Parties will reconvene in May 2016 to discuss technology transfer, and there’ll be periodic updates to reassess progress and needs. In the meantime, the agreement establishes a technology framework to sort out needs, capabilities, and obstacles. The agreement calls on developed and developing countries to share information about technology, but the crucial word here is ‘should,’ not ‘shall.’


The Paris Agreement- what’s the deal?

Less than a week ago, environmental ministers from around the world arrived at a groundbreaking agreement on how to approach the issue of global climate change. The historic Paris Agreement, which includes almost 200 countries, signifies a turning point in the global attitude towards climate change, and represents a triumph of multilateral diplomacy.

“The Paris Agreement is adopted!” Photo: Earth Negotiations Bulletin

In the weeks leading up to COP21, organizations from around the world released analyses and predictions on what the potential outcome of the meeting would be. Now, the same organizations are scrambling to interpret the Paris Agreement, in order to highlight its merits and make sense of its shortcomings.

One such analysis released by E3G provided a useful framework for interpreting potential political outcomes of the COP21, and was the focus of a previous blog post of mine. In brief, E3G predicted that the outcome of COP21 would fit into one of three political scenarios:

  • “Le Zombie”, in which the agreement consists of a tactical deal that will not endure.
  • “Comme ci, comme ça”, which sees some guarantees on finance and a certain level of ambition, but will require support going forward to be successful.
  • “Va va voom”, the best-case scenario, in which an enduring ambitious climate regime is cemented in the agreement.

This week, E3G judged the Paris Agreement to be a “low va va voom” scenario, due to the fact that the agreement is at the “ambitious end of the scenarios identified”. It’s true – the Paris Agreement is ambitious, promising to deliver on greenhouse gas reductions, and hold nations to their promises of ratcheting up emissions targets.

However, it is also important to not overstate the ambitiousness of the Paris Agreement. While the agreement is politically significant and environmentally important, at the end of the day it represents a compromise between the interests of different parties. As a result, the agreement does not necessarily reflect the level of ambition that many countries desired, especially those that are already dealing with severe impacts of climate change.

Nonetheless, leaving room within the agreement to increase ambition in the future may have been a smart move. The transition towards a net zero world by mid-to-end of the century will be difficult, and nations will need to ease into their carbon diets. However, because the Paris Agreement will require the continued attention and support of countries going forward, I judge the agreement to be more in line with a “high comme ci, comma ça” scenario, rather than a “low va va voom.”

The good

The Paris Agreement is strong in that it anchors the INDCs as emission reduction commitments within the text, and legally binds parties to produce on-going emission reduction targets. The agreement contains a long-term goal to balance the sources and sinks of greenhouse gases by the second half of the century, with the aim of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius – ideally 1.5. This ambitious mitigation target will require net zero emissions by 2050-2060, and reaching 1.5 degrees will require even stronger cuts. Five-year cycles for increasing mitigation ambition are hard-wired into the agreement, starting with a review of current contributions by 2018, which will be resubmitted in 2020. This near-term check in is important as it will keep countries on track with their emissions reduction commitments and maintain momentum. Finally, and importantly, adaptation and loss and damage are at the center of the agreement, reflecting the core interests of the most vulnerable countries.

The…not so good

While the agreement includes a plan to increase immediate funding, the funding regime post 2025 remains unclear. Further, the funding discussion lacks specificity about how the donor pool will be expanded in the near future. Efforts to improve the funding mechanism will require attention from countries going forward, as this aspect of the agreement is central to its ability to support adaptation and other necessary global initiatives. In addition, as is expected with an agreement of this scale, specificity on transparency and accountability is lacking. Political intent to carry this agreement forward is present, however the mechanism that will hold countries accountable is not concrete within the current agreement, further emphasizing that the deal will require continued global involvement to remain afloat.

Final thoughts

Although an ideal agreement would have fit into the “va va voom” scenario, the current agreement is realistic for the current political moment. Its significance lies in the fact that it demonstrates cooperation between developed and developing, large and small, rich and poor nations. Much like a house will not stand without a solid foundation, efforts to manage a critical global problem like climate change will not be successful without first laying bricks to build trust and solidify common multilateral interests. The Paris Agreement represents the beginning of a long and difficult journey – hopefully we will look back at this moment as a tipping point in the global effort to ensure an equitable and essential carbon-free future.