Historic Climate Change Deal Unveiled At Paris Summit, Will It Be Enough?

At the climate change summit in Paris, after nearly two weeks of intense negotiations, representatives of 195 countries were presented with the final draft of a climate change accord that would be the first of its kind, reports the New York Times.

Delegates at the climate change summit had been arguing over every aspect of the deal since the start of the conference nearly two weeks ago. Arguments ranged from big picture changes like the role developed nations would play in helping developing nations transition to cleaner energy sources, all the way down to minutiae like the placement of commas, the Guardian reports.

“The text of this agreement will go through ups and downs, there will be many comas inserted, and many commas removed because… it is a legally binding text and needs to be reviewed very, very carefully,” said the UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres.

Despite delays and seemingly hopeless negotiations, a final draft was presented Saturday afternoon and delegates immediately began to parse the text of the climate change accord.

The biggest change, and perhaps the heart of the climate change deal, is a new stipulation that requires action on behalf of all 195 nations. In the past, larger economies like the United States have typically been the major focus, exempting developing nations like China, India from any action on climate change.

The new draft takes a measured approach, setting a goal for every signatory nation to reach: to keep global warming no higher than two degrees Celsius per year. One of the more hotly debated items made it into the final draft, a “loss and damage” clause that would allow nations most vulnerable to climate change to seek financial compensation from nations who are most responsible for it, Quartz reported.

“This agreement would mark a true turning point in the global effort to address climate change. The text reflects both the push for high ambition and the voices of the most vulnerable. It accelerates the energy transformation that is well underway, pointing us to a safer and stronger future,” says Jennifer Morgan, the Global Director of the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute.

Still, the new draft – whose full text is available here – is still meeting with some serious skepticism from academics and politicians who think the deal doesn’t go far enough on climate change.

“This deal offers a frayed life-line to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Only the vague promise of a new future climate funding target has been made, while the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe,” said a spokesman for Oxfam.

The “loss and damage” clause recognizes that developed nations like the United States built their wealth on the burning of fossil fuels, at the expense of developing nations who are now suffering the results of climate change. Upon reviewing the new draft, representatives of developing nations are still unsatisfied.

The new draft of the climate change deal promises $100 billion a year from rich countries to help poor nations mitigate and deal with the ravages of climate change, but that promise is made in the preamble portion of the draft – which is not legally binding.

“We’ve always said that it was important that the $100 billion was anchored in the agreement, we’ll have to huddle and see if something can be worked out,” said Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, a representative from the coalition known as the Least Developed Countries.

While the climate change deal, if agreed upon, would be a historic step forward it may come too little too late for nations like the Marshall Islands, which are currently so inundated with seawater that climatologists fear the nation could disappear under the ocean in a matter of decades.

A representative from the Marshall Islands raised his concerns to the environmental minister of India, explaining the importance of this climate deal, that it may be the only hope his nation has.

“So what?” Minister Prakash Javadekar replied.

[Photo by Getty Images]