Obama: Paris climate pact ‘can be a turning point for the world’

President Obama is celebrating victory in getting an international climate accord Saturday, saying it will help stop some of the worst effects of climate change from occurring.

In a Saturday evening address at the White House, Obama took significant credit for the United States’ leading role in the the process toward the agreement.

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“Today, the American people can be proud, because this historic agreement is a tribute to American leadership,” he said, highlighting both the domestic climate actions under his administration and last year’s historic deal with China, in which China for the first time agreed to limit its greenhouse gases.

That, the president said, directly led toward success in Paris.

“This agreement represents the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got,” Obama said.

“I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world,” he continued.

“We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge. It won’t be easy. Progress won’t always come quick. We cannot be complacent.”

Earlier Saturday, representatives from nearly 200 nations voted in Paris to adopt the 31-page pact, the first international climate agreement to include all of those countries.

Individual countries’ emissions targets were determined by the countries and are not binding. But countries are required to report their emissions and their progress toward goals, and are urged to reconsider their goals every five years and improve upon them.

“The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis,” Obama said. “It creates the mechanism, the architecture for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way.”

The adoption of the deal is a major capstone in Obama’s climate change agenda, which he made a top priority for his second term.

It is meant in large part to recognize that domestic policies can do relatively little on a global scale without major economies like China and Brazil also taking action.

It’s why it was so important for Obama that every nation, not just developed ones, make a contribution.

“This agreement is ambitious, with every nation setting and committing to their own specific targets, even as we take into account differences among nations,” he said. “We’ll have a strong system of transparency, including periodic reviews and independent assessments, to help hold every country accountable for meeting its commitments.”

It was also important to Obama that the deal not be written as a treaty that commits the United States to anything on a legally binding basis. Among other reasons for that strategy, such an accord is very unlikely to obtain the two-thirds majority vote in the Senate that it would need for ratification.

A senior administration official said Saturday that the final text that was adopted accomplishes that goal.

“This agreement does not require submission to the Senate, because of the way it is structured,” the official said. “The targets are not binding. The elements that are binding are consistent with already-approved previous agreements.”