If you look in one direction, the Paris Agreement – for all Hoopla – is far from being a serious programme of in-depth international cooperation. The agreement will enter into force if at least 55 countries, which account for 55% of global emissions, ratify the agreement – a threshold much lower than most other international treaties. Indeed, the agreement should be seen as a down payment for a system designed to come into force quickly, and that is the best thing we can hope for now. In future climate agreements, one of the quickest ways to assess the depth of effort is to look at these “entry into force” rules – if they are sophisticated and difficult to implement, it will reveal a genuine attempt by countries to create an agreement that will hold all its members to account. It will be difficult to achieve such collaboration in a forum of nearly 200 countries, which is why the most important efforts will probably come from even smaller groups, such as the bilateral process between the United States and China, announced in November 2014. The compromise reached in Paris is more subtle, but also more practical. There is no formal accountability mechanism, but there is a consensus on the need to help the poorest and weakest nations prepare for massive climate change. The big question in the future is how to spend resources on this task. I think this is the most urgent and important issue facing climate diplomats. This is a subject where high standing is simple, even if it is practical details on how to help the weakest in a fair, fair and effective way. The complexity of the task is like the development itself.
The Paris Agreement draws on the experience of US national environmental legislation and allows national ambitions to adapt to technological innovation. This and the structured flexibility of the Paris Agreement on domestic policy will help to ensure that it remains resilient in the face of short-term disruptions in the national political climate. Of course, in Paris, there were many other young people, especially the French hosts, who made the success of their turning a national priority.