Historic Agreement in Paris

Carlyn Hill

Iowa State University


Two degrees Celsius: the most important number saving the world. History was made in Paris as world leaders from over 150 nations signed an international agreement at COP21. Giving hope to future generations, the agreement is sending an urgent global message to kick fossil fuels to the curb and expand renewable sources. Being the first of its kind the agreement alone won’t solve climate change as a whole, but for climate activists this is a huge victory!  

The twenty first meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP21) focused on the dispute of man-made climate change by mandating carbon emissions reductions to maintain the global temperature increase under two degrees or risk rising sea levels, regular severe storms and so many other life-threatening patterns. The final agreement is hinged upon these major conditions:

Environmentalists and world leaders would aim to review this document every five years with goals of keeping countries and participating parties accountable. 

The largest disputes in passing the document seem to be whether to halt warming at below 1.5 degrees, compared to pre-industrial levels, or to establish the warming threshold at 2 degrees, "the point beyond which the impact of climatic change is believed to increase dramatically" (Publications Office). Other arguments added to the discussion state how industrialized countries could aid underdeveloped parties in the wake of continuing climate threats (Sutter, “48-page”).

Prior to the conference, participating parties each submitted their own pledge in committing to greenhouse gas emission reduction. 

These Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) not only kicked off the summit with goals in mind, but were also the initial judge of whether or not those pledges would halt global warming under the critical two degree limit. Those pledges helped catalyze a global treaty that would set milestones for countries to aim for in reducing carbon emissions, but would also raise accountability between the world’s largest emitting parties and offer financial support to developing countries already subject to the effects of climate change.

Ahead of the conference, thousands of communities and businesses have committed to the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action’s (NAZCA) Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA). With initiatives to accelerate climate action and build momentum, the LPAA registers these commitments and strives to further increase coalitions (“Lima-Paris”). These initiatives fit hand in hand with the 17 Goals of the United Nations Division of Sustainable Development, which include targeting zero hunger, zero poverty, climate action, and affordable clean energy sources (“Partnerships”). Not to mention the multitude of ISF Community Crews already taking action across the globe in force!

Following the attacks in Paris, climate protests and marches were cancelled for the safety of the city. Instead thousands of pairs of shoes can be found in the city with notes pleading world leaders for climate action (Sutter, “Shoes”). Artist Olafur Eliasson also headed “Paris Ice Watch” as 100 tons of glacial ice from Greenland were transported to Paris in 12 chunks to resemble hours on a clock, melting in the passing time alongside the arctic (Sutter, “Watching”). Marches worldwide also took place supporting a strong agreement and building momentum towards a sustainable future.  

Simple ways to halt the threats of climate change are readily available, even in your community!  Invest in renewable energy sources, take to the polls and elect representatives with clean energy plans, evaluate your diet and see where your food comes from, look at reusable mugs and bags when out running errands, and most importantly, recycle! So no matter the impact - it is just that!  Individual footprints make a great sum in a ripple effect. One more or less does indeed make a difference!  For our future and for the tenants to follow us, it’s time to show that this home is worth protecting.  It’s time to know tomorrow.      



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"COP21 Program." COP21. United Nations Conference on Climate Change, 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

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"Partnerships Engagement for the Sustainable Development Goals." Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Publications Office. “Strategy on climate change for 2020 and beyond.” EUR-Lex. Access to European Union Law. European Union, 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 11 April 2016. <http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=URISERV:l28188>

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Sutter, John D. "Is 2 Degrees the Wrong Climate Goal?" CNN. Cable News Network, 8 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Sutter, John D. "'The Shoes Are Marching for Us'" CNN. Cable News Network, 29 Nov. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

Sutter, John D. "Watching Greenland Melt from Paris." CNN. Cable News Network, 8 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.

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United for Climate Action. Digital image. Logos. United Nations Conference on Climate Change, 2015. Web. 10 Dec. 2015.


For further information on the so-called 2°C Objective, please visit http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52007DC0002 (©European Union, 1998-2016’).


Photo courtesy of http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/logos/