Representatives at a U.N. climate summit outside Paris on Saturday approved the first-ever universal agreement to combat global warming, a deal that commits nearly 200 developed and developing nations to jointly transition to a low-carbon economy.
At 7:26 p.m. local time, the president of the COP21 climate conference, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, struck his gavel to bring Saturday’s final plenary session to a close, announcing amid applause and embraces that the delegates had achieved “something great.”
The landmark agreement struck after nearly two weeks of negotiations in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget marks the beginning of shift away from a development model based on fossil-fuel burning and comes after 21 years of climate summits and 12 months of intense diplomatic efforts.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, said the agreement was among the most complex agreements ever negotiated.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a glimpse into the hard-fought effort to hammer out an agreement, noting that the fact that all parties are a little upset means a good deal was struck, calling the accord a “victory for all of the planet and for future generations.”
The final text of the agreement, released Saturday morning, sets a goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”
To achieve that objective, it secured commitments to battle climate change from each of the 196 parties to the agreement and requires those countries to show evidence of their compliance and make further moves to cutting their man-made greenhouse-gas emissions every five years.
The first review of national efforts to meet climate goals has been set for 2018 and the first revision of emission commitments is set for 2020.
Developing countries were demanding financial assistance in transitioning to a low-carbon economy and managed to secure a commitment in that regard from wealthy Western nations.
“Developed country parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the convention,” the agreement’s Article 9 reads.
“This is huge: Almost every country in the world just signed on to the #ParisAgreement on climate change – thanks to American leadership,” U.S. President Barack Obama wrote on Twitter.
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said in a statement that “governments must now put words into actions, in particular by implementing policies that make effective progress on the mitigation pledges they have made.”
“That is why my key message is to price carbon right and to do it now.”
Most of the financing obligations assumed by wealthy countries are not included in the Paris agreement, although they have made a non-binding pledge to “set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of $100 billion per year” before the 2025 climate change conference.
At least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions must now ratify the agreement for it to take effect.