Paris summit seals ambitious climate change agreement; nearly 200 nations pledge to marshal a global effort to fight climbing temperatures and rising seas, delivering a major victory for President Obama.
Le Bourget, France—Nearly 200 nations clinched a historic climate change deal on Saturday, pledging for the first time to marshal a global effort to fight climbing temperatures and rising seas and delivering a major victory to President Barack Obama, who has made the issue a core priority of his presidency.
The pact is the most aggressive international plan ever put in place to combat climate change and comes after more than two decades of often tortured United Nations talks that have pitted the U.S. and other industrialized nations against poor countries over who should shoulder the burden for protecting the planet from the greenhouse gases spewed by smokestacks and tailpipes.
Obama hailed the agreement as a “tribute to American leadership,” citing his administration’s work to bring aboard big emitters like China as well as the policies he has put in place that are designed to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants.
“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” Obama said in remarks from the White House early Saturday evening.
But Obama also admitted the deal would not protect the planet from many of the changes in the climate that are already taking place, saying “no agreement is perfect, including this one.”
The deal, which is the product of two weeks of tense negotiations in this suburb north of Paris, won’t by itself do enough to stop damaging temperature rises. But negotiators said the pact is a down payment on a decades-long push to bring emissions into balance by the end of the century.
“It’s a victory for all of the planet and future generations,” Secretary of State John Kerry said, adding that deal is “in the interest of every nation on earth.”
After a two-hour delay Saturday in which negotiators frantically corrected technical errors in text of the deal, countries adopted it without immediate objections on Saturday night Paris time. The decision triggered raucous applause in the cavernous plenary hall here, with delegates jumping to their feet and hugging one another while wiping away tears.
“This is no doubt a tremendous collective achievement, said Miguel Arias Cañete, the European Union’s climate commissioner. “Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we have to act.”
But the agreement quickly caught domestic political flak back in the U.S. — from Republican lawmakers who accused Obama of making meaningless promises, and from Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, who lambasted it as not ambitious enough.
“While this [deal] is a step forward it goes nowhere near far enough,” Sanders said in a statement, noting that he has pushed legislation calling for swifter cuts in U.S. greenhouse gas pollution than the administration has committed to. “The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.”