On April 22nd UN nations can officially sign the Paris climate agreement to keep global warming below 1.5° Celsius (though the world was hoping for a commitment goal of 2° C.) This marks one of the most significant days in climate change history.
Last year, Global Citizen’s Earth Day Festival in Washington DC was epic. While our Earth Day festival is not taking place this year, COP21 is something to be proud of and celebrate.
130 UN nations have agreed to sign on and keep their promises to reduce the effects of climate change, and uphold the agreement which “aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”
China and the US are among the countries expected to attend the signing festivities this Earth Day where they will pledge to work together.
If all 130 countries sign the agreement, it will surpass the previous record for most signatures on the opening day of an agreement signing (currently 119 for the Law of the Sea Treaty in 1994.)
So what exactly are countries signing up for?
First, there’s article I and II which cover the specified target of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5° C. Article II also mentions targets on “increasing the ability to adapt to climate change,” noting that finance and food security can be a challenge.
Countries also agree to start implementing action promptly to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The UN climate panel warns that the world needs to achieve zero net emissions by 2070 to avoid dangerous levels of warming. This is where Article 4 comes into play. “Parties” or countries signing on commit to reach peak levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, or “the second half of this century.”
There’s also a clause acknowledging that island countries and developing countries need support.
Literally, “support shall be provided to developing countries.”
How is the world going to measure and keep track of this? Countries will report back every five years on their efforts and will escalate their plans as time goes on.
Critics say that the COP21 agreement is not nearly ambitious enough to prevent the worst of climate change and that the non-legally binding nature makes it hard to hold countries accountable.
So after Earth Day you can demand that world leaders hold their promises and become more aggressive in efforts to fight climate change!
Or you know, you can sue the government for not doing enough on climate change like these 21 kids are doing.
There’s a lot more in the agreement so check out the full adoption of the UN FCCC Paris Agreement here for more detail.
And share your Earth Day plans in the comments below!