Paris Agreement Catalyzes Global Cooperation toward a Low-Carbon Future

Worker's clean solar panels for maximum efficiency at the power solar facility in Lancaster, California. Photo credit: © Dave Lauridsen for The Nature Conservancy

Worker’s clean solar panels for maximum efficiency at the power solar facility in Lancaster, California. Photo credit: © Dave Lauridsen for The Nature Conservancy

By Lynn Scarlett, Managing Director of Public Policy and Global Climate for The Nature Conservancy

Paris is again in the news—and, this time, as host to nearly all the world’s nations who came to a historic agreement to address climate change. I recall both the achievement of—and tensions spawned by—the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement nearly 20 years ago. The Paris Agreement marks a profound and different achievement. The words of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning—“let me count the ways”—resound in my mind.

First is the remarkable inclusiveness. Before we even got to Paris, about 185 countries—including developed and developing nations covering practically 100% of global emissions—submitted their own national commitments to mitigate climate change. In Paris itself, all of those countries and more were represented and nearly 150 national leaders from all over the world made this happen – the most global leaders ever assembled outside the United Nation’s New York headquarters. My colleague Peter Wheeler wrote last week about what he saw in the negotiations, highlighting his sense of a new kind of global empathy – a sense of unprecedented collective energy to protect our world for us today and for generations to come. This is the true significance of this Paris moment.

I peg this extraordinary inclusiveness to the pioneering process of engagement—a process that is the very essence of national diversity and self-determination. Four years ago, in Durban, South Africa, the negotiating process towards Paris got started and participants established a “bottom-up” process, with each nation setting forth what it could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and address climate impacts.

The United States—and other nations—have long been wary of climate action propelled —> Read More

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