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THE PARIS AGREEMENT: History
The Paris Agreement came out of the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC ), held in Paris from November 30th to December 12th, 2015.
The Paris Agreement was open for signatures from April 22, 2016, to April 21, 2017. It was finalized on November 4th, 2016, after the required threshold of 55 Parties, accounting for an estimated 55 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, ratified the agreement.
The aim of the Paris Agreement is to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The signatories agreed to respond to the threat of climate change by limiting the global temperature rise this century to below 2 degrees Celsius and to make an effort to reduce the rise to 1.5 degrees. (According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Since 1975, the global temperature has risen at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.)
THE PARIS AGREEMENT
The Parties to this Agreement,
Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as “the Convention”,
Pursuant to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action established by decision 1/CP.17 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its seventeenth session,
In pursuit of the objective of the Convention, and being guided by its principles, including the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances,
Recognizing the need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge,
Also recognizing the specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, as provided for in the Convention,
Taking full account of the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries with regard to funding and transfer of technology, Recognizing that Parties may be affected not only by climate change, but also by the impacts of the measures taken in response to it,
Emphasizing the intrinsic relationship that climate change actions, responses and impacts have with equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty,
Recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change,
Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities,
Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,
Recognizing the importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of the greenhouse gases referred to in the Convention,
Noting the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice”, when taking action to address climate change,
Affirming the importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels on the matters addressed in this Agreement,
Recognizing the importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors, in accordance with respective national legislations of Parties, in addressing climate change,
Also recognizing that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change,
Have agreed as follows…
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THE PARIS AGREEMENT: The United States’ Commitment
The United States, under the direction of the Obama Administration in March 2015, submitted the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025. (The baseline level is from 2005 when the United States emitted 6.132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.) Most greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and hydrofluorocarbons) are created by burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas. Other sources are fertilizers, raising livestock and landfills. These are the target areas to reduce emissions.
The United States ranks second only to China as the largest carbon emitter. China and the United States together accounted for 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2014. The Paris Agreement was the first agreement that both China and the United States signed.
At the time the agreement was signed, a New York Times/CBS News poll found that two-thirds of Americans supported signing the agreement. A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 8 in 10 Americans believe that “human activity is fueling climate change and roughly half believe that action is urgently needed within the next decade if humanity is to avert its worst effects. Nearly 4 in 10 now say climate change is a “crisis”…” (Washington Post.com)
The American Enterprise Institute analyzed research data by the 2018 BP Statistical Review of Global Energy and University of Michigan economist Mark Perry and reported that in 2017 the United States’ carbon emissions decreased by more than 42 million tons due to the substitution of natural gas for coal. (capital research.org)
On June 1, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement stating that the Agreement undermines the United States economy and puts the United States at a permanent disadvantage. On November 4, 2016, formal notice of the intention to withdraw was given. According to the Agreement, it takes twelve months to withdraw, so formal withdrawal will be on November 4, 2020.
After the announcement to withdraw from the Agreement, several governors formed the United States Climate Alliance in order to continue to advance the objectives of the Paris Agreement at the state level. As of July 1, 2019, 24 states and Porto Rico have joined the alliance.
All major democratic candidates for president support rejoining the Paris Agreement. William Weld, Republican presidential candidate also supports the Agreement, while Donald Trump and Joe Walsh do not.
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