From Jeff Masters and Bob Henson at Weather Underground:
Key parts of the Paris Agreement include:
--New global targets. The Paris Agreement emphasizes the importance of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” The 1.5°C goal was originally proposed years ago by small island states for which any greater warming could spell extinction. In a surprise move, the U.S., European Union, Brazil, and many other nations joined forces with those small island states to argue on behalf of including the 1.5°C goal. For now, the target is mainly a statement of solidarity and empathy, given that the nation-by-nation plans submitted over the last few months would together limit global warming to perhaps 2.7°C over preindustrial levels at best.
--Regular review and fine-tuning. The targets in each national plan will remain voluntary--largely out of deference to the U.S. Congress, which telegraphed its refusal to approve binding U.S. targets. But the Paris Agreement does include newly binding requirements on how each nation reports progress toward its targets, to help ensure accountability on the world stage. The plans must be reviewed and revised every five years, with an eye toward greater emission cuts over time as renewable technologies are deployed at larger scale.
It appears that the legally binding requirements of the Paris Agreement may not require approval from the U.S. Congress if they are interpreted as extensions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which was signed by President George H.W. Bush and approved by the U.S. Senate in 1992.
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