CAMBRIDGE – How should one evaluate the agreement reached in Paris this month at the United Nations climate change conference? No sooner was the deal announced on December 12 than the debate erupted.
Some avid environmentalists were disappointed that the agreement did not commit firmly to limiting global warming to 1.5º Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050.
But such a commitment would not have been credible. What emerged in Paris was in fact better, because the negotiators were able to agree on practical steps in the right direction. Individual countries pledged to limit their emissions in the near term, with provisions for future monitoring and periodic reviews of targets. This is far better than setting lofty goals for the distant future while giving little reason to think that they would be met. The important thing is to get started.