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What Have Climate Pacts Accomplished? (CFR)

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Backgrounder

Global Climate Agreements: Successes and Failures

International efforts, such as the Paris Agreement, aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But experts say countries aren’t doing enough to limit dangerous global warming.

By  Lindsay Maizland

Summary
  • Countries have debated how to combat climate change since the early 1990s. These negotiations have produced several important accords, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
  • Governments generally agree on the science behind climate change but have diverged on who is most responsible and how to set emissions-reduction goals.
  • Experts say the Paris Agreement is not enough to prevent the global average temperature from rising 1.5°C. When that happens, the world will suffer devastating consequences, such as heat waves and floods.

Introduction

Over the last several decades, governments have collectively pledged to slow global warming. But despite intensified diplomacy, the world could soon face devastating consequences of climate change.

Through the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps rising, heating the Earth at an alarming rate. Scientists warn that if this warming continues unabated, it could bring environmental catastrophe to much of the world, including staggering sea-level rise, record-breaking droughts and floods, and widespread species loss. 

Ahead of a UN climate conference in November 2021, known as COP26, dozens of countries have made new commitments. Still, experts, activists, and citizens remain concerned that these pledges are not ambitious enough

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