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Landmark accord sets global climate goal

| Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, 12:01 a.m.
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius; and French President Francois Hollande mark an accord at a climate change conference at Le Bourget, near Paris.
REUTERS
Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius; and French President Francois Hollande mark an accord at a climate change conference at Le Bourget, near Paris.

LE BOURGET, France — Negotiators from 196 countries approved a landmark climate accord on Saturday that seeks to dramatically reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for a dangerous warming of the planet.

The agreement, adopted after 13 days of intense bargaining in a Paris suburb, puts the world's nations on a course that could fundamentally change the way energy is produced and consumed, gradually reducing reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner forms of energy.

“History will remember this day,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said after the pact was gaveled through to thunderous applause. “The Paris agreement on climate change is a monumental success for the planet and its people.”

The deal was struck in a rare show of near-universal accord, as poor and wealthy nations from across the political and geographic spectrum expressed support for measures that require all to take steps to battle climate change. The agreement binds together pledges by individual nations to cut or limit emissions from fossil-fuel burning, within a framework of rules that provide for monitoring and verification as well as financial and technical assistance for developing countries.

The overarching goal is to bring down pollution levels so that the rise in global temperatures is limited to no more than 3.6 degrees above pre-industrial averages.

Delegates added language that expressed an ambition to restrict the temperature increase even further, if possible.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who presided over the talks, hailed the pact as a “historical turning point” that could spare the planet's 7.3 billion people from the most disruptive effects of global warming in decades to come. Before the vote, he urged delegates not to shirk from taking steps that could avert an environmental disaster.

“The citizens of the world — our own citizens — and our children would not understand it. Nor, I believe, would they forgive us,” Fabius said.

Cheers echoed up and down the tent city where thousands of journalists, activists and business leaders awaited news of the deal, which was sealed during the final 48 hours of nearly non-stop talks.

“This is a tremendous victory for all of our citizens — not for any one country or bloc, but a victory for all of the planet, and for future generations,” Secretary of State John Kerry said after the accord was announced. “The world has come together behind an agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for our planet: a smart and responsible path, a sustainable path.”

The accord is the first to call on all nations — rich and poor — to take action to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with reviews required every five years to encourage even deeper pollution cuts.

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