Earthjustice Statement on Historic Global Climate Agreement

Marking a new era in global cooperation, the agreement instills sense of urgency and opportunity


Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (212) 845-7380

The Global Climate Talks concluded today in Paris. More than 180 countries arrived in Paris with national climate change plans in hand and, at the close of the two-week summit, adopted the 11-page agreement which commits signatories to:

  • hold the increase in global temperature average to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, a goal that reflects the most current science on the uppermost limit of warming if we are to reduce the risk of the most catastrophic impacts of climate change
  • review progress every five years, the first before 2020, and bring countries back to the table to increase their emissions reduction efforts
  • robust transparency provisions to hold nations accountable to carry through on their pledges
  • provide support to poorer countries  to help them leapfrog to low-carbon development, adapt to climate change and cope with unavoidable loss and damage.

Earthjustice attorneys have used a full suite of legal tools to force the shift from dirty to clean energy and protect communities from the catastrophic impacts of global climate change: from challenging the shaky financing of failing coal plants and laying the legal groundwork for the Clean Power Plan to serving as legal advisor to the small Pacific island nation of Palau during the international climate negotiations. 

The following statement is from Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen:

“Today marks a new era in global cooperation on climate change. The Paris Agreement delivers a powerful signal to business, investors and communities that the nations of the world are committed to curbing greenhouse gas emission and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon/ clean energy economy. The goal of the final agreement—to hold the increase in global temperature average to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change,’ embraces the most current science and the urgency to take strong action.

“Earthjustice is proud to have worked alongside Pacific Island nations during the talks. These leaders have served as a powerful moral compass throughout this process, reminding us of all we have to lose.

“Despite the agreement’s laudable goals, the combined climate action pledges submitted by 186 nations would still leave the world on a path to over 3° global average temperature rise by the end of the century, far from meeting the agreement’s stated goal, and disastrous for islands and coastal communities and the American heartland alike. Avoiding this level of warming depends on steady, rapid increases of each nation’s climate action pledges. While the agreement commits countries to come back to the table every five years to review progress and make new pledges, it does not mandate nations to increase their pledges.

“And so our work is just beginning. All nations are on board. Now we must move with urgency here at home to implement the Clean Power Plan and methane rules—two corner stones of the our nation’s climate pledge—and ensure the United States is a leader in the clean energy economy, the biggest investment opportunity and job creator of the century. Whether we live in rich nations or poor ones, in low-lying coastal communities or in the American heartland, our fates are bound together. This global deal works hand in glove with our nation’s bedrock environmental laws to protect our common future and to accelerate the transition from the age of fossil fuels to the age of renewable energy.”

On the closing days of the Paris climate talks, an auspicious sign is illuminated on the Eiffel Tower
(Flickr user Yann Caradec)
On the closing days of the Paris climate talks, an auspicious sign is illuminated on the Eiffel Tower. (Yann Caradec)

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.