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MARCH 2016


Climate Breakthrough

in Paris


fter more than two decades of

on-again, off-again negotiations,

failed treaties and international discord,

the world witnessed the near-impossible

become reality on Dec. 12. The United

States and 194 other countries reached

the first-ever deal on a way forward for

limiting global warming.

Most scientists agree that warming

beyond 2 degrees Celsius will result in

catastrophic weather events such as

droughts, floods, heat waves and sea

level rises, causing irreversible damage.

With the world already nearly halfway

toward that 2-degree mark, negotiators

representing all 195 countries descended

on Paris in December for the United

Nation’s 21st Conference of the Parties—

a two-week session that many believed

would be the last real opportunity to

tackle climate change at the international


Prior to the COP, countries submitted

individual pledges to cut greenhouse gas

emissions—known as intended nation-

ally determined contributions (INDCs)—

but only enough to limit warming to 2.7

degrees Celsius, at best. Nonetheless,

these INDCs are a critical starting point

toward an agreement that represents a

truly global pact.

For the first time, parts of the pact are

legally binding, including a requirement

that countries come together every five

years to set more ambitious targets as

dictated by science. Experts believe that

the roadmap adopted in Paris may limit

the increase in global temperatures to 1.5

degrees Celsius.

Countries also agreed to report to

each other and the public on how well

they are doing to implement the targets

in their respective INDCs. Developed

countries pledged to mobilize $100


billion annually for adaptation and

resilience measures and to help reduce

emissions in developing countries.

The ultimate goal is to limit the

amount of greenhouse gases emitted by

human activity to the same levels that

trees, soil and oceans can absorb natu-

rally, hopefully by some time between

2050 and 2100.

While there is much to pick apart in

the fine print of this agreement (e.g.,

provisions for voluntary withdrawal of

parties, no legal requirements for caps on

emissions, etc.), it’s hard to dispute the

significance of this diplomatic achieve-

ment. Secretary of State John Kerry called

it “a remarkable global commitment”;

The Guardian

deemed it “the world’s

greatest diplomatic success.”

The Paris Agreement will enter into

force after 55 countries accounting for

at least 55 percent of global emissions

ratify it.

—Maria C. Livingston,

Associate Editor

American Hostages

Held in Iran Finally



ifty-two American Foreign Service and

military personnel were taken hos-

tage at Embassy Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979,

and were not released until Jan. 20, 1981.

Now, 35 years later, Congress has finally

approved compensation for the physi-

cal and psychological hardships they

endured during those 444 days.

Their reparation was included as a

line item in the Consolidated Appropria-

tions Act, Fiscal Year 2016, under the Vic-

tims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund.

For decades, many of the former

hostages had pursued legal proceedings

to secure collective compensation from

the U.S. or Iranian government. Much of

their case emphasized adverse effects on

their post-crisis quality of life: some of

the hostages have experienced post-trau-

matic stress disorder and psychological

disturbances leading, in some cases, to

suicide, substance abuse, mental illness

I’ve always felt that we are better off trying diplomacy first, and if we

don’t succeed we can always resort, if necessary, to the use of force. It

will not be easy for [Iran] to cheat and trim on this deal—they may try, but the

world is going to be watching as they do that. We’re going to have the sup-

port of our European allies, of the Russians and Chinese, of most of the Arab


But the problemwe are going to have is that when we implement the

nuclear deal we’re also going to have to contend with a very aggressive, very

negative Iran in the region. … I think that Secretary Kerry has been right to

say, ‘Look, we’ll challenge Iran to work more productively and constructively

on the Syrian civil war or on Yemen, but we’ll have our guard up to defend

against Iran in the region.’ I think that’s the only proper thing for the

U.S. to do.

—Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, now a professor

of diplomacy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, in a Jan. 18 interview with Robin Burr on “Here & Now,” a program on WBUR, Boston’s NPR station.

Contemporary Quote