Climate Conference Aims To Put Paris Agreement Into Action

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International officials at the opening session of the climate conference in Marrakech.

Leaders from 195 countries are meeting in Morocco to discuss how to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The United Nations climate change conference began Monday and runs through Nov. 18. It is the first major climate meeting since the Paris climate change agreement was passed at last year's conference.

The main goal of that agreement is to prevent catastrophic warming of the earth by "[holding] the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees [Celsius] above pre-industrial levels."

As we have reported, the global average temperature has already risen about 1 degree Celsius, relative to pre-industrial levels.

To meet the 2-degree goal, each country that signed on to the Paris agreement has already submitted a national plan for how it will curb greenhouse gas emissions. India, for example, promised to generate 40 percent of its electricity with non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

The U.S. plan promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the economy by 26 percent to 28 percent in 2025, compared to 2005 levels. The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after China.

The Chinese government also signed onto the plan, pledging that emissions there will peak in 2030 and then decline.

But there are still questions about how to hold countries accountable for their pledges, and how to pay for some of the initiatives countries describe in their plans. Those issues will both come up at the conference underway in Morocco.

Susan Phillips of NPR member station WHYY is covering the conference in Marrakech, Morrocco, and reported that, "Developing nations want wealthier countries to help finance their efforts to reduce emissions and prepare for rising sea levels."

As The Two-Way has reported, India has called on the U.S. and other countries to share technologies that help decrease emissions.

The timing of the U.S. presidential election during the conference could be relevant to the question of accountability, since the two major-party presidential candidates disagree on how the U.S. should or shouldn't implement the climate agreement.

Phillips reports Hillary Clinton wants to continue the pledges the U.S. agreed to in Paris and boost renewable energy like solar, while Donald Trump says he wants to pull the U.S out of the climate agreement and burn more coal.

At a State Department briefing last week, the director for energy and climate change for the National Security Council, John Morton, told reporters, "obviously, I think there is a great deal of interest not just domestically, but internationally in terms of what the election outcome will be." He acknowledged "the candidates have very different views on climate."

Morton said that, although the outcome of the election could affect "how quickly the U.S. moves [to limit emissions] ... the international community is moving forward."

Morton continued:

"I think what we have seen in recent months and, in fact, in recent years is a recognized inevitability of the transition to a low-carbon economy. And so the international community – the international business community, the international policy community – is moving forward and will continue to move forward."

"I think the question of commitment to action is no longer one which is being debated," Morton said, adding that the issue at hand is "frankly, who will lead and who will benefit most from this transition to a lower-carbon economy."

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