We Have a Deal: Paris Climate Accord Officially Adopted

For the first time, the world's nations have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to stave off catastrophic climate change.
Environmentalists hold a banner near the Eiffel Tower on Dec. 12. (Photo: Mal Langsdon/Reuters)
Dec 12, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

In the face of certain global environmental catastrophe, the world's nations for the first time agreed to slash greenhouse gas emissions as the Paris climate summit ended on Saturday.

The crowd erupted in applause with a standing ovation as dignitaries shook hands, smiled, and even wept as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius brought down the gavel and declared the agreement unanimously adopted, according to The Guardian.

The plenary session commenced around 5:45 p.m. Paris time, but dignitaries hustled for nearly another two hours to iron out the final details and wording.

“It is my deep conviction that we have come up with an ambitious and balanced agreement,” said Fabius. “Today it is a moment of truth.”

The 31-page agreement, also being referred to as the Paris Agreement, represents the past two weeks—not to mention the past two decades—of negotiations to curb global warming and cut carbon emissions.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius

(Photo: Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

The final agreement requires every nation to take action to keep global temperatures' rise “well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Past negotiations have put the burden of cutting carbon emissions on the United States and other industrialized countries most responsible for global warming. The Paris Agreement, however, requires developing nations to reduce emissions as well, and obliges developed nations to help finance their transition from fossil fuels to wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. This was one of the most hotly contested issues at the Paris climate conference.

Environmental groups have praised the agreement, though some worry that it falls short by not setting a timetable to phase out fossil fuels. The reduction pledges made by governments before the conference will still result in global temperature increases far above 2 degrees Celsius.

“This didn’t save the planet,” Bill McKibben, cofounder of climate activist group 350.org, told CNN. “But it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.”

The agreement states that “much greater emission reduction efforts will be required” to meet current goals, and nations will communicate their emission reductions every five years.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted in his remarks that while many were likely to say the agreement was imperfect, he was proud of the accord and the legacy it would leave.

“This is in the interest of every nation on earth,” Kerry said. “What we do next…that is what will determine whether we’re able to address one of the complex levels humankind has ever faced.”