Climate Agreement in Paris: A Step Forward

By Professor Eric Orts

A significant step forward has been taken in Paris with a landmark agreement establishing a framework for potential progress in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the preservation of forests, and other related issues. I’m reading the details of the full agreement now and will have an initial perspective to share on Wharton Business Radio tomorrow at 10 am (Sirius XM 111). My immediate reactions, though, are quite positive.

Unlike Copenhagen, the diplomatic efforts followed by the Paris organizers followed a “bottom-up” approach advocated by me and others, encouraging each country to come forward with their own plans rather than attempting to impose a “top-down” solution through a comprehensive detailed treaty or agreement. This idea sees the global agreement reached in Paris as only one of many needed agreements or what I’ve called “climate contracts” at many levels.

The major success of the Paris agreement is to establish a solid framework of international verification and reporting. It also demonstrates and reaffirms a global consensus of nations that the available science reveals real and serious risks to humanity.

The agreement itself will not “solve” the climate change problem (as President Obama has noted in his speech on the topic), but it establishes a path forward that can serve as orientation toward reducing the overall risks of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preserving intact forests, encouraging continued focus on improved governmental solutions, and, perhaps most importantly, providing incentives and enhanced motivations for business and research-based institutions to invest in discovering and developing “climate friendly” technologies, products, and services.

Paris is a large step forward and a symbol of hope for the future. Whether in fact the promise of Paris will be borne out in actual progress remains uncertain, and long-term success will depend on the future actions and commitments of many nations and millions of people, but progress is now more probable than before.

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