An airport hangar outside Paris shook with cheers, toasts and foot-stomping in December as diplomats ushered a landmark climate agreement into existence. On Friday morning, world leaders will gather again at the United Nations for a grand ceremony to sign the document.
But can they deliver on their promises to fight global warming?
After a quarter-century of failed diplomatic efforts, signs are growing that nations have turned a corner in their political willingness to tackle climate change. Many leaders are pushing to make the Paris agreement legally binding years earlier than originally expected. The falling cost of clean energy is providing a powerful tailwind for their efforts.
For all the signs of progress and political will, however, new challenges to implementing the accord have arisen just since December. Outside experts also say the countries’ bare-bones plans are still far from enough to keep global warming to tolerable levels. No country has shared a detailed, credible strategy to achieve what scientists think is necessary: ending the era of fossil-fuel emissions and converting entirely to clean energy no later than the middle of this century.
Unless countries develop more ambitious plans, the experts say, the world could ultimately suffer profound consequences, including debilitating heat waves, food shortages and fast-rising seas.