World must reach a meaningful climate deal at Paris talks for the sake of humanity
After decades of foot-dragging, governments cannot afford to waste any more time in fixing what is a global problem
The Paris climate summit is being hailed as the most important meeting of its kind ever held. That is because the 20 previous talks made limited headway towards markedly cutting the carbon emissions that cause temperatures to rise. President Xi Jinping and other heads of state are well aware of this; it is why they broke with usual practice and gathered for the opening rather than close, using the opportunity for a rare show of unity to call for a strong agreement. This different thinking will be needed during the coming two weeks to ensure a meaningful deal.
As if to accentuate the urgency, the capitals of China and India, the world’s most populous nations, were blanketed in hazardous smog as the summit began on Monday. Coal for heating, a major reason for emissions in developing countries, was the main cause. The world’s most polluting nations, the US and China, set promising targets in a joint announcement last year and Xi and his American counterpart, Barack Obama, were among the dozens of leaders in Paris pledging to work together. The challenges are considerable, though; while China has the will and determination to do its share, a hostile US Congress and the upcoming presidential election could derail efforts, while India’s government refuses to set binding targets for the sake of continued growth.
But politics aside, a deal requires greater effort than that already offered. The summit’s goal is to forge an international strategy to ensure temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above 1990s levels. Even if the 183 nations that have submitted pledges can meet targets, there will still be a 2.7 degree increase. Questions linger over the details of a final agreement, among them what parts are to be binding, how climate projects in developing countries are to be funded and ensuring accountability and transparency. For too long, governments have dragged their feet. There is no disputing global warming and the best opportunity to tackle it has arrived. A deal has to be reached to allay the danger humanity faces.