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What The Last-Minute Climate Deal-Making Means For the Pact


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer. Rachel Martin is on assignment in Saudi Arabia. Yesterday in Paris, the world's governments adopted the most comprehensive climate deal in history. Delegates at a cavernous meeting hall cheered as the chief French negotiator gaveled the deal. Celebrations continued through the night in Paris restaurants and nightclubs. Now, however, comes the task of making it work. NPR's Christopher Joyce reports from Paris that as big as the deal is, it's still only a partial solution.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: No one expected the Paris deal to stop climate change in its tracks. President Obama yesterday praised the agreement, but acknowledged that this pact is just the start.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Even if all the initial targets set in Paris are met, we'll only be part of the way there when it comes to reducing carbon from the atmosphere.

JOYCE: That's because each country came to the table in Paris having set its own target for limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Some of those targets are ambitious, some are not. The U.S. has a 10-year goal to cut emissions by about a quarter from where they were in 2005. President Obama says that's a strong commitment. But some countries have promised more, many within the European Union, for example; others, somewhat less. China and India will be allowed to increase emissions for many years. Many developing countries have made contingency commitments - we'll reduce emissions by X amount, but we'll cut back more if we get financial help from the West. When scientists add all this up, they say the world is still going to warm up dangerously, as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next few decades. Nat Keohane, an economist with the Environmental Defense Fund, says that's why the agreement requires countries to ratchet up their effort level in the future.

NAT KEOHANE: We don't have enough ambition right now. We've got a start, but we need to ratchet it up going forward. And the regular cycle of review and progression and re-upping commitments, countries coming back to the table every five years with more ambitious commitments, that was critical to get in there.

JOYCE: But it means that regardless of how a country's economy fares in the future, it will have to keep reducing emissions. Environmental groups applauded the deal, but many said it fell short. Keya Chaterjee runs the Climate Action Network, which represents dozens of environmental organizations. Her group wanted language to discourage people from investing in fossil fuel industries.

KEYA CHATERJEE: That language came out of the agreement unfortunately. Frankly, the fossil fuel industry in some countries still has a lot of influence.

JOYCE: Like the last climate deal in Kyoto in 1997, the Paris agreement is part experiment and part gamble, with very high stakes. Christopher Joyce, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Joyce is a correspondent on the science desk at NPR. His stories can be heard on all of NPR's news programs, including NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition.
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