Countries across globe sign Paris climate accord

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This past Friday’s celebration of Earth Day brought with it global efforts to boost environmental sustainability when 175 countries agreed to sign a landmark climate agreement.

These world leaders gathered at the headquarters of the United Nations to put their pens on paper as they signed the Paris climate accord, a plan formulated in the hopes of saving the planet. The total number of countries involved presents a victory for environmentalists across the globe.

The accord made history as the first global agreement that has garnered that much support on a single day, as 175 countries joined in the signing. The signatures received is in essence a barometer of world leaders’ concern towards the environment.

Still, the document is only a stepping stone towards the accord becoming international law. In order to pass officially into law, at least 55 countries who account for 55% of global emissions has to formally approve of the measure within their own nation’s governments, either through legislative or executive actions.

Amongst these countries, the United States is already on board. The toll that increased industrialization has taken on the environment is finally being overtly manifested in recent years. The harmful effects of climate change have come to the forefront as a problem that can no longer be ignored as climate patterns are changing.

Scientists predict that unless the track the world is on now can be reversed, rising temperatures will lead to shortages in food, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme weather patterns. However, it has become apparent that the climate accord may not go far enough.

Those who helped to draft the document have acknowledged that the stipulations set forth are not enough to meet the goal of keeping global temperatures from increasing beyond 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Still, the measures would be able to help slow an increase in average temperatures. The Paris climate accord has also signaled a shift in environmental policy amongst prominent global leaders. Now, countries are free to explore sustainable alternative to fossil fuels since renewable energy is on the rise. Furthermore, leaders can be assured that their nations can explore these alternatives while still growing the economy.

Secretary of State John Kerry is optimistic about the economic advantages, stating, “The power of this agreement is the opportunity that it creates. The power is the unmistakable message that it sends to the marketplace. It is the unmistakable signal that innovation, entrepreneurial activity is what is going to define the new energy future.”

Indeed, going a different economic route would be beneficial. Coal companies in the United States are going bankrupt.

Meanwhile, access to lower-cost solar and wind power is becoming increasingly available, providing a better financial and environmentally friendly alternative. The Paris accord agreement centers around the efforts of its individual member countries.

The accord stipulates that it individual countries set goals for reducing emissions and regularly revise those goal upward every set number of years. Some countries have even pledged to go beyond the regulations set by the Paris accord in order to reduce their emissions.

As the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, China has pledged to create a cap-and-trade market that would limit the allowance of carbon emissions industries can burn. Similarly, the United States has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below the level reached in 2005.

Only time will tell if their measures will prove to be a turning point in the collective efforts to combat climate change or whether these efforts are too little and too late.

During the U.N. meeting, emphasis was placed on the need to act expeditiously. “We are in a race against time,” stated the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. “The window to hold temperatures at safe levels is rapidly closing.”

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