The conclusion of the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference is considered a political and diplomatic masterpiece. For years, diplomats had been preparing the two-week negotiations in the Paris suburbs in early December 2015. The main task was to prevent another disaster like the one at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference. At that time the conference had brought no result and a lot of anger and frustration.
The Paris conference, however, ended with jubilation and long applause, also because the delegates of the 195 signatory states had negotiated the last three nights. The most important result was basically one sentence: global warming should be kept “well below 2 ° C” compared to pre-industrial levels, and “further efforts should be made to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 ° C”. (Here the whole contract in German translation)
This happened in the knowledge that the global temperature rise caused by humans is already 1 ° C, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has shown in numerous studies. And with constant emissions, global warming would be exceeded by 1.5 ° C “between 2030 and 2052”. (Here is the UNEP report, unfortunately only in English)
What was still missing was any kind of obligation or even the possibility of sanctions. “It was simply the lowest common denominator,” explains economic researcher Stefan Schleicher, who has been closely following the UN climate conferences for decades. “As soon as it comes to liabilities, the US is the first to stop doing it.”