On Saturday, December 12, 2015, delegates from 195 countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions (those gases responsible for climate change) to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with an ambition of limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. After years of stalemate, acrimony, and difficult negotiations, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came to resolution with an historic Paris Agreement (see text of the Agreement here). Under the text of the new agreement, which builds on years of previous decisions, guidance, and technical work, areas of importance for include, among many other areas, robust reporting and accounting, increased action tropical forests through efforts aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD, in UN-speak) and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancements of forest carbon sinks (REDD+, in UN-speak), increased financing to support efforts by developing countries, recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the important stewardship role communities have in protecting tropical forests (which I have previously written about here), and the ongoing potential for carbon market approaches (although Article 6 of the Agreement uses the euphemistic phraseology of “cooperative approaches”).
As a climate attorney and carbon market professional who works on the California Cap-and-Trade Program, I’m thrilled by this outcome – and I’m equally excited by the role that California’s climate policies continue to have in pushing for robust climate action within our state, the country, and internationally.
When Laurent Fabius, president of the COP and France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, struck the final gavel indicating debate and voting on the Agreement was final, he stated “C’est un petit marteau, mais je pense qu’il peut faire des grandes choses!” (It’s a small gavel, but I think it can accomplish important things!) Bien dit, Monsieur Fabius! Congratulations to all of the COP21 delegates, to restoring hope for truly global climate action, and to setting the stage for the increasingly important work that still remains.