Atmospheric Sciences News

Countries Worldwide Commit to Curbing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Although the agreement is a political breakthrough, it falls short of keeping future temperatures from rising more than 2°C above those of pre-industrial times.

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Following 2 weeks of negotiations, representatives from more than 190 countries reached an agreement on 14 December that would commit each nation to curbing its greenhouse gas emission rate. The “Call for Climate Action,” reached in Lima, Peru, at a meeting of the decision-making arm of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), lays the framework for a commitment that will be signed in 2015 by world leaders in Paris.

Under the agreement, dubbed the Lima Accord, officials from each nation would spend the first months of 2015 compiling a detailed plan to limit domestic greenhouse gas emissions. The success of the Lima Accord therefore depends on the ability of governments to chart their own courses toward emission reductions.

“The negotiations here reached a new level of realism and understanding about what needs to be done now, over the next 12 months and into the years and decades to come if climate change is to be truly and decisively addressed,” said Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC Executive Secretary.

She added that recent climate action announcements from the European Union, the United States, and China—the latter two responsible for about 45% of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution—helped to galvanize delegates into taking more steps to reduce emissions.

The Lima Accord represents the first time countries have agreed to such action. Previous efforts, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, languished unratified because many developed nations would not agree to limiting carbon emissions if the developing world could emit unchecked.

Despite its history-making success, the Lima Accord will not prevent global temperatures from rising 2°C above preindustrial averages, the New York Times reports. This temperature change represents the tipping point at which scientists say irreversible climate effects, such as melting sea ice and increasing extremes in weather, will become the new normal.

—Mohi Kumar, Staff Writer

Citation: Kumar, M. (2014), World countries commit to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, Eos, 95, doi:10.1029/2014EO020577.

 

 

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