I have read all of the international agreement COP 21 (COP 21 – for Conference Of the Parties #21 – Parties are countries.) signed on 12 December 2015. I have practiced law, though never dealt with international law except peripherally in the Navy. The agreement will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions sign and adopt the agreement in New York between 22 April 2016 and 21 April 2017.
This is certainly not a binding agreement with specific requirements which guarantee our safety. Though under Article 2 the parties will "pursue efforts to" limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C, each country can do whatever it wants to. Pressure to do the right activity and enough of the right activity must come from its citizens. To say it is worthless goes too far, however, and I believe is too pessimistic. It does give us a point to demand progress, make comparisons between countries, and make public statements.
- More writing is on adaptations than preventing the crisis.
- “Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible…” (Article 4, paragraph 1)
- It gives an out (Article 4, paragraph 15) for “concerns…with economies.”
- Each party shall “promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency…” (Article 6 paragraph 2)
- Countries shall share information and make it public. (Article 12)
- Each party shall…provide…a national inventory report of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals…of greenhouse gases…” (Article 13, paragraph 7)
- The parties will meet starting in 2023 and every five years take stock of the global outcomes. (Article 14 paragraph 2)
Where does this leave us in the United States? Other countries have already surpassed us to a significant degree in the use of renewable energy. Almost all countries pay fossil fuel companies orders of magnitude more than renewable energy. Falling behind other countries in these areas makes us less competitive. The frequency and severity of weather related disasters will continue to increase and it will become more and more obvious how serious climate change is. Link how following the COP 21 will benefit all of us.
Remember including this agreement should be a factor and not a primary argument. There is much animosity against the United Nations, some of it justified. Make your case with benefits of clean energy, better jobs, a more competitive economy, damage of fossil fuels, and cheaper long term costs before mentioning the UN agreement. Then it is good to end with a patriotic appeal that we as a nation can be as competitive as Costa Rica. (or one of the many other countries that have passed us.)
9-The Great Global Transition - Top Ten Stories In this video COP 21 is discussed briefly.