- The Paris Agreement, also known as COP21 (the 21st Conference of Parties) or the Paris Climate Accord, is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
- COP’s are Conference of Parties, which are the annual gathering of almost all nations to make agreements in relation to climate change. COP21 was the 21st annual meeting and was held in Paris, December 2015.
- The 1st COP was held in Berlin in 1995. Perhaps the most well known COP was the 3rd held in Kyoto, to produce the Kyoto Protocol, which was the first COP agreement whereby developed countries signed up to legally binding measures to reduce their green house gas (GHG) emissions.
- Before the COP’s, there was the Stockholm Conference (United Nations Conference on the Human Environment), held in 1972 by the UN which laid the basis of global environmental action. The next major global gathering was in Rio, Brazil, known as the Earth Summit, held in 1992.
- As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the Paris Agreement, 153 of which have ratified or officially signed in to law (UNTC, 2017).
- The Paris agreement is the first time that all countries have each agreed to make contributions.
- The contributions that each individual country should make in order to achieve the worldwide goal are determined by all countries individually and called “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs). Each country determines, plans and regularly reports its own contribution it should make in order to mitigate global warming.
- Analysts have agreed that the current NDCs will not limit rising temperatures below 2oC. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3oC above pre-industrial levels, far above the 2oC of the Paris climate agreement.
- The EU has agreed a binding target of an overall EU reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels.
- Global stock-takes will be carried out to assess how the near term goal of peak emissions can be achieved as quickly as possible and then how to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
- NDCs must evolve so that they continually reflect a country’s “highest possible ambition” and emission reduction efforts are expected to be “ratcheted up” every five years. They will be evaluated as part of the future COPs to measure their continually increased efforts.
- The Paris Agreement aims to “Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (UNFCCC, 2017).
- Article 3 requires them to be “ambitious”, “represent a progression over time” and set “with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement”. The contributions should be reported every five years and are to be registered by the UNFCCC Secretariat.
- There are mechanisms that countries can choose to use towards emissions reductions outside of their borders, called Sustainable Development Mechanism. This is where assistance is given to other countries in becoming more sustainable and credits are given towards the country giving assistance towards reaching their own NDCs.
- Green Climate Fund: Developed countries agreed to give $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and agreed to continue mobilizing finance at the level of $100 billion a year until 2025. These funds will be used in climate mitigation and adaptation measures, and specifically underscoring the need to increase adaptation support for parties most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.
- “Adaptation” are measures to adapt to actual or expected future climate change events, such as floods, droughts, storms, extreme weather events e.g. heat waves, forest fires, invasive species, habitat loss,
- “Mitigation” are measures to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions, such as switching to renewable energy and enhancing carbon “sinks” that accumulate and stores these gases such as soils, oceans and forests.
- In 2017, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement, causing widespread condemnation in the European Union and many sectors in the United States. The decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement puts the US in line to join only Nicaragua and Syria as non-participants in the Agreement.
- In July 2017, France’s environment minister Nicolas Hulot announced France’s five-year plan to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 as part of the Paris Agreement. Hulot also stated that France would no longer use coal to produce electricity after 2022 and that up to €4bn will be invested in boosting energy efficiency.
UNFCCC Paris Agreement: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf
UNFCCC Secretariat: http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf (accessed July 12th, 2017)
UN Treaty Collection (UNTC) https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XXVII-7-d&chapter=27&clang=_en (accessed July 12th, 2017)