Your Guide to Paris: What the New Agreement Says, and Why it is Important to Your City

The COP 21 talks in Paris are over. After months of planning, and nervous anticipation by climate leaders, a deal has been reached. While these international negotiations are often regarded as top-down agreements, the real work of implementing climate solutions will be spearheaded by mayors and local leaders across the country.

Because of this, over 500 mayors and municipal leaders from across the globe attended the Paris talks, and weighed in on how they could be a part of global climate solutions at the micro level. Mayors must be aware of what the agreement says, and how they can leverage the resources in their community to take advantage of the opportunities and challenges that the agreement presents.

What the Paris agreement says:

  1. Temperature target: The new agreement sets a goal of limiting temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Ratchet mechanism: A timeline was set for countries to make emission reduction commitments and to reach those targets. Reviews of progress towards these goals will take place every five years, and there will be room for countries to take more ambitious actions.
  3. Financial assistance: Developed countries will receive climate aid to reach what would otherwise be unobtainable climate goals. The aid will amount to at least $100 billion, and will be subject to a review every five years.
  4. Long term shift: The ultimate goal of the pledges and commitments is to make leaders rethink energy and climate. The focus must turn away from fossil fuels, and towards renewables and clean energy.

The text of the agreement is directed, in large part, towards national leaders, but local communities and mayors will be tasked with implementing the details of the climate deal. Mayors will need to focus their efforts on garnering the support of residents, emphasizing the importance and benefits of action, and implementing bold climate plans.

4 focal points for local action:

  1. Focus locally: Tap into the strong personal value of community, and identify how implementing climate solutions can improve the lives of families, and the spaces that residents enjoy collectively.
  2. Connect clean energy to a prosperous life: Implementing climate solutions that incorporate clean energy can revive economies, bring well paying, green jobs, and provide economic stability for residents. Supporting such projects can bring power, and empower your community.
  3. Provide tangible, local solutions: Several working groups at COP 21 connected mayors who are dedicated to implementing bold climate action plans. Meeting with other leaders, sharing, learning, and borrowing successful local solutions should become part of any climate tool-kit.
  4. Shift quickly from pessimistic sentiments to solutions: While some focus on the perpetrators of climate change may be unavoidable, attention should be quickly refocused on how to meet the challenges of climate change via local actions and by empowering communities. Mayors must lead the way towards solutions rather than focus on past actions.

By focusing on these four key points, mayors will be able to work towards the goals laid out in Paris. Climate leaders are needed now more than ever, and the work of mayors at the community level will enrich the lives of residents, empower local businesses, and pave a way towards reaching international climate goals. To find out more about communicating with your community about climate, check out ecoAmerica’s Let’s Talk Climate. Also, don’t forget to connect with other city leaders, by joining Path to Positive Communities

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