Visitors enter the U.S. “We Are Still In” pavilion at the COP 23 United Nations Climate Change Conference on November 11, 2017 in Bonn, Germany. (Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)

Paris Climate Agreement: Everything You Need to Know

The Paris meeting that generated the agreement charted a new course in the effort to combat global climate change. Here’s what the accord seeks to achieve, and why our future may depend on its success.

Protesters gather near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France during the 2015 UN Climate Conference.

Clement Martin/Sipa USA via Associated Press

The Sinclair Oil Refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming

Nick Cote for NRDC

Smog covers the city of Taiwan.

CSL media Productions via Flickr

Ice melt in Greenland

Christopher Michel via Flickr

Flooding overtakes a farm in Bangladesh.

Amir Jina via Flickr

The McFadden Ridge Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, Wyoming

Nick Cote for NRDC

The aftermath of a wildfire near Santiam Pass in Oregon

Sheila Sund via Flickr

Beyond Paris

While the Paris Agreement ultimately aims to cap global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century, many studies evaluating the voluntary pledges individual countries made in Paris show that the cumulative effect of those emissions reductions won’t be large enough to keep temperatures under that cap. Indeed, the targets countries laid out are expected to limit future temperature rise to between 2.7 and 3.7 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, current evaluations of how countries are performing in the context of their Paris climate goals indicate some nations are already falling short of their commitments.

However, it’s important to remember the Paris Agreement isn’t static. Instead, it’s designed to boost countries’ national efforts over time—meaning that current commitments represent the floor, not the ceiling, of climate change ambition. The heavy lifting—reining in emissions even further by 2030 and 2050—still needs to be done, and the accord provides the tools to ensure that happens.

Reflecting the collective belief of nearly every nation on earth that climate change is humanity’s war to fight, the Paris Agreement exposes America’s climate skeptics—including Trump—as global outliers. In fact, the mobilization of support for climate action across the country and the world provides hope that the Paris Agreement marked a turning point in the fight against climate change. We can all contribute to the cause by seeking opportunities to slash global warming contributions—at the individual, local, and national levels. The effort will be well worth the reward of a safer, cleaner world for future generations.

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