Last month, world leaders from over 200 countries came together in Paris to negotiate a historic global climate agreement. Proponents hope that the Paris Agreement will end of over 100 years of reliance on fossil fuels as the engine of economic growth. The deal requires all ratifying countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with a goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius by the year 2100, with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Advocates of the deal report that if temperatures rise more than two degrees Celsius, we can expect to see severe, possibly irreversible effects. Strong transparency and reporting requirements were adopted to ensure that ratifying countries stick to these goals. There is also an economic incentive for countries to review emissions goals and set more strict reduction requirements every five years.

The Paris Agreement encourages developed nations to spend trillions of dollars “adapting” to the effects of climate change. This includes actions such as enlarging and elevating islands by transporting soil from other places, replacing mangroves, restoring corals and fishing grounds, and developing renewable energy sources. Developed countries are required to send $100 billion annually to developing nations beginning in 2020.

Some elements of the agreement are binding, such as the reporting requirements, but many other elements are non-binding, such as the setting of emissions targets for any individual country, along with the target two degree Celsius global increase cap.

The Paris Agreement is unique insofar as it includes both developing and developed nations, demonstrating a never before seen unity on this issue. The host nation, France, has been universally praised for its handling of the conference. Although leadership from leading developed nations including the United States, China and India played a key role, vulnerable small island countries such as the Marshall Islands emerged as major power players during the conference.

Reports of the negotiations indicate that Obama and leaders from France went to great lengths to include small, developing nations that will be hit hardest by the effects of climate change. However, negotiators did not accept specific proposals to the agreement that call for developed nations, such as the United States, to compensate for damages under international law, fearing that it would cause Congress to kill the deal.

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The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions has become a high priority for the Obama Administration. The laws and regulations associated with such reductions can and will be exceedingly complex, and they are constantly evolving. If you need assistance with regulatory compliance, the experienced Philadelphia environmental compliance lawyers at Michelman & Bricker, P.C. can help. Our offices are conveniently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Call us at 215-557-9440 or contact us online today.