Paris! What Now?


What happens now? The diplomats from more than 180 countries who were gathered in Paris have agreed on a historic pact to finally get serious about climate change on a global scale. They moved past decades of excuses and blame-shifting to commit to pollution cuts and a strong legal framework to build ambition in the future.

But, to say the least, that doesn't mean we've solved the problem.


The agreement requires each country to find its own path to meet the pollution reductions they promised in Paris. They also need to allow everyone else to track their progress, so we can be confident that the pledges will lead to real benefits for the climate.

So the first crucial task is for each country to get to work -- or continue their work -- in creating the policies that will cut their greenhouse gas emissions. The solutions will be wide-ranging, from carbon and methane pollution limits to the development of clean energy to preserving forests that absorb carbon dioxide. One of the smartest approaches is an efficient market-based system, like the one that's worked so well to reduce pollution and strengthen the economy in California.

There's also a element of the agreement that few people are taking about, that encourages this approach to drive up investment in clean energy and drive down pollution.The role of markets may not be in this week's headlines, but in 10 years it will be one of the enduring legacies of the Paris agreement.


For climate activist and organizations, job number one will be to push governments to increase their ambition -- not only fulfill their Paris pledges, but up the ante.

In the US, the Clean Power Plan -- which finally puts limits on climate pollution from power plants -- and rules for cars and trucks, have been a great start. In fact, by showing the world we were serious about action, they were a major reason that the Paris agreement was achieved. But they are only a first step.

Now we need to think even bigger. We need a solution that not only cuts a lot more climate pollution, but also drives a revolution in clean energy. We've already seen great progress -- wind and solar energy are dramatically cheaper than just a few years ago -- but the economy needs a major shift in incentives. We need to make it less expensive to produce energy from clean, rather than dirty, sources. That means Congress needs to get serious and comprehensive about our energy future.

So, toast the accomplishment in Paris. It really is a breakthrough. But then let's get back to work, pushing the people who represent us to be bold. Let's use this momentum to do great things.

For more on climate change, go to EDF Voices.

On Twitter @RealKeithGaby