Tang Prize Laureate Brundtland: Signing of Climate Agreement Sets Actionable Goals

  • Tang Prize Foundation CEO Jenn-Chuan Chern and the 2014 Tang Prize laureate in Sustainable Development Gro Harlem Brundtland  attended COP21 in Paris
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Today (April 22), leaders of the world’s nations are set to sign the Paris Agreement in New York. As many as 196 parties (195 countries and EU) are expected to bring the agreement into effect, which is an attempt to hold rising global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.

A brief 29 articles long, the present agreement was worked out in last minute sessions at the Conference of the Parties (COP21) last December, when the 196 parties agreed on the language and content of the agreement. Now, in the spirit of Earth Day, the signing nations will meet in the UN Headquarters in New York to sign the agreement into effect.

The Paris Agreement is the first such agreement to involve all the nations of the world in the reduction of GHG emissions. Both developed and developing nations are accounted for. Each nation has agreed to act within its respective powers to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The stated goal is to not surpass the 2 degree Celsius ceiling, though signing nations have said that they will endeavor to bring that ceiling down to 1.5 degrees. 

The 2014 Tang Prize laureate in Sustainable Development Gro Harlem Brundtland led the UN World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) from 1984 to 1987. “Our Common Future,” also known as the Brundtland Report, was published in 1987, and became a seminal text for its definition of the term ‘sustainable development.’ The Brundtland Report and Earth Summit have continued to influence subsequent UN conferences, including Rio+20 and the COP meetings.

In a recent correspondence with the Tang Prize Foundation, Brundtland said of the occasion: "this Earth Day, with the highest number of governments ever to sign an international agreement, is a great confirmation of the significance and importance of the Paris Climate Agreement last December." The road to this agreement has been long and uncertain, says Brundtland, but this year's agreement provides an actionable global plan for the coming years.

Tang Prize Foundation CEO Jenn-Chuan Chern attended COP21 in Paris last year as an observer, and said that the Tang Prize both recognizes and awards outstanding contributions in the field of sustainability, specifically those obtained through science or technology.

The Tang Prize will announce its second year of recipients on June 18-21, 2016. Prizes are awarded biennially in Sustainable Development, Biopharmaceutical Science, Sinology, and Rule of Law.