International diplomats in Paris have agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions that marks a turning point in more than 20 years of efforts to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.
The agreement says nations should work towards achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and CO2 sinks such as new forestry in the second half of this century and that assistance be provided to island nations threatened by sea level rise.
Furthermore, the agreement sets a five-yearly schedule for assessment of whether emission reduction efforts are sufficient and outlines an ambition for climate finance for developing countries after 2020 to exceed the current goal of $100 billion a year.
The agreement stakes out a global commitment to keep global warming “well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels” and to pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. This target has been improved (from the previous “below 2C”) in light of scientific evidence on the grave risks of a massive rise in the sea level. The parties also aim to reach a global emissions peak as soon as possible.
The diplomats have done well. The urgent, long overdue challenge of implementation now begins.