Global Climate Deal at COP21

The deal unites all the world's nations in a single agreement on tackling climate change for the first time in history.
Coming to a consensus among all UN members, 196 countries, on the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is regarded by many observers as an achievement in itself and is being hailed as "historic", and the most significant since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Key Objective of the Paris Agreement is to keep global temperatures "well below" 2.0C (3.6F) and "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5C.

To review each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge.

For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing "climate finance" to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.

Meanwhile, for the first time, the agreement lays out a longer-term plan for reaching a peak in greenhouse emissions "as soon as possible".

It is easy to forget what an extraordinary event these UN talks were. The UNFCCC is one of the last remaining forums in the world where every country, however small, is represented on the same basis and has equal say with the biggest economies. Most modern diplomacy carries on in small, self-selected groups dominated by richer countries – the G7, the G20, the OECD, Opec – but all 196 states have a seat and a say at the UNFCCC. Agreement can only be accepted by consensus.

If this makes for an unwieldy and frustrating process, it is also a fair one. The poorest countries of the world, so often left out of international consideration, are those which have done least to create climate change, but will suffer the most from it. Only at the UN are they heard.

What happens next?

As analysts point out, Paris is only the beginning of a shift towards a low-carbon world, and there is much more to do.

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