Paris Climate Talks: On Track to Create a New Kind of International Agreement

India announced its national plan for addressing climate change recently. It will reduce its carbon intensity and dramatically expand its growing renewable energy sector. India's solar market grew more than 100-fold in the past four years. Indian leaders released the plan on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, linking today's climate action with his historic focus on creating a sustainable and equitable society.

With this announcement, India joins the US, China, Brazil, the European Union and all the other major emitters in setting targets reducing carbon pollution. Now countries accounting for over 90 percent of carbon emissions around the globe have shared action plans with the international community.

That means Republican claims have been overtaken by events once again. GOP leaders say America should not act on climate because it would be acting alone. The truth is the US is demonstrating strong leadership by implementing the Clean Power Plan. This is a plan the vast majority of Americans support. And we have seen time and again that U.S. leadership is encouraging stronger actions by countries such as China and India. The truth is that scores of nations, states, cities, companies and organizations are now participating in a shared effort to confront climate change. We are not acting alone, but are leading a global effort.

People around the world realize this is in their own self-interest; they know climate action saves lives, creates jobs and protects future generations from the worst impacts of global warming.

This knowledge and commitment will help turn the Paris climate conference into a new kind of climate gathering that produces an unprecedented number of climate action commitments including a new kind of international agreement that holds nations accountable.

At previous international talks, negotiators would hash out an agreement and then return home to figure out how they could honor it. The results tended to be abstract and hard to pin down. This time around, countries are taking greater ownership of their role in carbon reduction. They are arriving in Paris with concrete plans that can be monitored and verified for accountability.

Most countries are building on existing actions. China, for instance, has not only made substantial commitments to reduce its carbon pollution, but it already leads the world in solar and wind power installation. The US is on track to cut carbon pollution from new cars in half by 2025, and states are already drafting implementation plans for how to cut carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent by 2030.

Taken together, the national action plans represent important progress. New research estimates that current pledges will bring the planet's warming down to 2.7 degrees Celsius. That adds up to the greatest carbon pollution reduction in history. Yet scientists agree we must go below 2 degrees Celsius of warming if we want to stave off dire impacts on food security, sea level rise and public health. This means that Paris must be the start of the next wave of needed climate actions around the world.

Past climate talks often centered on distant timetables that couldn't spur the fast, immediate action needed to stay below the 2 degree mark. Now heading into Paris, a potential breakthrough could keep countries focused on steady, near-term action. Representatives from many nations want to include a mechanism for ratcheting up national carbon reduction targets every five years.

NRDC is pushing hard for this approach, because it will ensure that the current national plans are the floor for climate action, not the ceiling. We are urging countries to see their commitments as a starting point for an even more serious set of climate actions in the years to come, especially as technology and market forces make renewable energy and energy efficiency even more reliable and affordable.

NRDC is also supporting another new dimension of the Paris talks: the groundswell of commitments emerging from cities, provinces, corporations and foundations. Last month, for instance, several Fortune 500 companies such as Walmart, Starbucks, and Johnson & Johnson pledged source 100% of their electricity from renewable energy and seize the business benefits. National plans and international agreements remain essential, and in addition, defusing the climate threat quickly enough requires action at every level. That action is happening right now, around the world. It is happening in Mexico and China. It is happening in Hyderabad and Kansas City. It is happening at Nike and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Americans are not alone in these efforts, despite what GOP leaders say. We are part of a global alliance to protect our health, our economies and our children's future.

Ask our leaders to take strong climate action in Paris by clicking here.