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What The Big Climate Deal Actually Means For The Countries Involved


We wanted to hear more about what today's agreement actually means for the countries involved. So we're turning now to Jennifer Morgan. She is the director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute - that's an international research institute. She's been at the talks all week, and she was actually at the vote today - actually, just left there. Jennifer, thank you so much for speaking with us.


MARTIN: Now, we just spoke with our reporter, Chris Joyce, who described what seems to be a great sense of euphoria there surrounding the deal. Is that what you're seeing and hearing, and what do you feel about it?

MORGAN: Oh, it is a sense of euphoria; it's a sense of relief; it's just a sense of determination. I am just feeling incredibly grateful and excited and a bit relieved, too.

MARTIN: Why relieved?

MORGAN: Well, you know, when you're trying to get oh, 196 countries to agree by consensus on one of the most complex problems in the world and you're ticking against a clock, it's tough. And until the - you know, the gavel comes down, you don't know if it's going to succeed or not.

MARTIN: I imagine there have to be some critics there. What are they saying?

MORGAN: I think the critics are saying that it doesn't go far enough, that there should've been more about, perhaps, a carbon budget or that type of thing. But, you know, everyone signed on. Africa is happy, the islands are happy, the United States is happy. So I think it's a pretty collective euphoria.

MARTIN: To that one point that you just made, though, about whether there should be more demands made of the people who sign on to the agreement. The agreement, as I understand it, is largely voluntary. There are no major mandates for any of the countries. So what are the consequences if these guidelines are not followed, other than, obviously, the big picture of the effect on the planet? But I'm just saying, are there any consequences?

MORGAN: Yeah, actually, this is a binding international agreement that has binding rules and procedures in it. So countries are now obligated to put forward a national climate action plan every five years and to strengthen it every five years. They're required to report and be verified on what they're doing. And there's a compliance committee that will check whether or not they are complying with the national targets that they have set.

MARTIN: As I said, our colleague, Chris Joyce, talked about little bit about the next steps here. And he indicated that in the U.S. - that the administration is likely to rely on its interpretation of a past treaty. Do you think that that offers the opportunity for a speed bump where the U.S. is concerned?

MORGAN: I mean, the president will have to determine how to move this forward. But from our analysis, it is, indeed, the implementation of the framework convention on climate change. It can be met through existing domestic laws and regulations.

MARTIN: What about in other countries? What is the process likely to be like there?

MORGAN: In each country, they have their own process. I think in most countries, it will go through a parliamentary ratification process, and each one will have to do that. The European Union, I think, China, I think - I can imagine there would be a rather rapid sense of gratification here.

MARTIN: Before...

MORGAN: But every country - yeah, go ahead.

MARTIN: Go ahead, Jennifer. Sorry, forgive me, we're almost out of time. Before we let you go, how soon should we be looking for results? If this - if all goes ahead as planned and if the countries actually ratify and embrace this as you hope they will, how soon should we be looking for results?

MORGAN: I think we should see results immediately because the results should be that the price of coal drops and the price of renewables and the share of renewables grows because the signal out of this agreement is clear. We're going to net zero emissions.

MARTIN: That's Jennifer Morgan - she's director of the climate program at the World Resources Institute. She spoke with us from Paris. Jennifer Morgan, thank you so much for speaking with us.

MORGAN: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.