Paris Agreement - landmark accord on climate change reached at COP21

Representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark agreement on climate change, which will, for the first time ever, commit both developed and developing countries to lowering greenhouse gas emissions to help avoid adverse effects of climate change.

The Paris Climate Change Conference convened from 29 November to 13 December 2015 in Paris, France, which brought together more than 36,000 participants in a huge effort to advance negotiations on the Paris Outcome, including a legally binding agreement and associated decisions.

The Conference included the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the 11th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 11). The meetings of the three Subsidiary Bodies for Scientific and Technological Advice, for Implementation and the Ad How Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action were also held at the Conference.

The Paris Agreement, which was hailed as a historic multilateral agreement on climate change , commits nations to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue all efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C to protect island states, which will be most affected by rising sea levels. The need to “adverting, minimising and addressing” losses suffered by vulnerable countries due to climate change is acknowledged as well, although the accord rules out any liability or compensation payable by nations most responsible for climate change.  

The agreement also calls for global GHG emissions to peak “as soon as possible”, and for a balance between the  emissions from human activity and the amount that can be captured in sinks between 2050 and 2100, achieved through rapid reductions.

Source: Agence France Presse

By 12 December 2015, 186 countries have pledged their roadmaps (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution), which set out the way in which they intend to reduce their GHG emissions. The remaining countries have been asked to submit their national pledges before the Marrakesh climate talks in 2016. However, a study  by the UNFCCC Secretariat from 1st November 2015 evaluating the INDCs received before this date, showed that with these national pledges global warming would still reach a temperature increase between 2.7°C and 3°C. Climate Action Tracker evaluated 185 country pledges, representing 94% of global emissions and 97% of global population, which would still not be enough to limit global warming to below 2°C. Projections based on these INDCs show a global temperature rise between 2.4 and 2.7°C by 2100. 

The Paris Agreement foresees that all countries review their national contributions every five years from 2020 onwards. Countries shall not lower their ambition, i.e. their reduction targets, but are encouraged to raise them. Developed countries will have to disclose their GHG emissions, progress on targets, climate adaptation and finance at least every two years, while other countries can do so voluntarily. Nonetheless, the Paris Agreement does not foresee any enforcement mechanisms, penalties or other instruments that might ensure target achievement, but is based on voluntary pledges by signatory states.

A differentiation is still made between developed and developing countries, stating that “developed countries must continue to take the lead in the reduction of GHG emissions”, whereas developing nations are encouraged to enhance their efforts and gradually curb their emissions. In terms of burden sharing, developed nations must provide financial resources to help developing countries, whereas other countries are invited to provide support voluntarily.

Financing of 100 billion dollars per year has to be provided by rich countries from 2020 on, which shall be subject to review by 2025.

In 2023, the Paris Agreement will be reviewed for the first time globally, followed by regular reviews every five years. Each of those reviews will inform countries in “updating and enhancing” their pledges.

The agreement, which has been signed by 196 nations, will enter into force once it is ratified by at least 55 countries, representing at least 55% of global GHG emissions.

Next to the Paris Agreement, a number of decisions were adopted by the parties, that, inter alia: enhance technology development and transfer through the Technology Mechanism, decide on the process to assess progress made in formulating and implementing national adaptation plans (NAPs); extend the mandate of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG); adopt the terms of reference for the 3rd comprehensive review of the implementation of the capacity-building framework; address methodological issues under the Kyoto Protocol; provide methodological guidance for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+); provide guidance to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI); and approve the programme budget for the UNFCC C for 2016-2017.

Read more:

Official website of COP 21

Paris Agreement

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