The Road From the Paris Climate Agreement


WednesdayApril 5, 201712:00 PM Kleinman | Free Event
Perry World House
3803 Locust Walk
19104 Philadelphia , PA
United States
Pennsylvania US
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  • Andrew Light
    University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences
    George Mason University & World Resources Institute

In December 2015 over 190 countries met in Paris for the 21st meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change where they succeeded in creating a new international climate agreement.  Many have heralded the outcome as a groundbreaking achievement for international diplomacy and global climate action.  Others have argued that the climate commitments that parties brought to the table in Paris are ultimately too weak to achieve the agreements’ lofty aspirations.  To better understand the significance of the new Paris Agreement we will review the recent history of the UN climate negotiations, how this outcome evolved from earlier failed attempts in this process, and understand what its impact could be.  A more pressing question, however, may be what new future for global climate cooperation is now required of us after Paris, especially in light of the last federal election in the United States.  To close the current gap between the Paris pledges for emission reductions, and what is needed to achieve our long-term goals for climate stabilization, we will need to continue to strengthen the profile of climate change as equal to other global priorities, and find new opportunities for enhanced climate action that all parties can embrace despite their differing domestic circumstances.



Andrew Light is University Professor of Philosophy, Public Policy, and Atmospheric Sciences at George Mason University, and Distinguished Senior Fellow in the Climate Program at the World Resources Institute, in Washington, D.C.  From 2013-2016 he served as Senior Adviser and India Counselor to the Special Envoy on Climate Change and Staff Climate Adviser in the Secretary of State's Office of Policy Planning, in the U.S. Department of State.  In this capacity, he served on the senior strategy team for the UN climate negotiations, Director of the U.S.-India Joint Working Group for Combating Climate Change, and Chair of the Interagency Climate Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals, among other duties.  

In recognition of this work, Andrew was awarded the inaugural Alain Locke Award for Public Philosophy, from the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy in March 2016, and a Superior Honor Award, from the U.S. Department of State in July 2016, for “contributions to the U.S. effort that made the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, where the landmark Paris Agreement was concluded, a historic success.”  

In his academic work he is the author of over 100 articles and book chapters, primarily on climate change, restoration ecology, and urban sustainability, and has authored, co-authored, and edited 19 books, including Environmental Values (2008), Controlling Technology (2005), Moral and Political Reasoning in Environmental Practice (2003), Technology and the Good Life? (2000), Environmental Pragmatism (1996), and the forthcoming Ethics in the Anthropocene.  Before joining the U.S. government he was Senior Fellow and Director of International Climate Policy at the Center for American Progress, where he was chief adviser on these issues to the center's founder and chairman, John Podesta.  He has previously taught at NYU and the University of Washington in Seattle.