What is Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a historic international treaty that provides a framework for reducing and potentially reversing the progress of climate change and global warming. It is part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and serves as a complementary measure to the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted on December 11, 1997, and continues in force for the developed nations to which it applies. In practice, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement are designed to work hand-in-hand to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and to protect the world in which we live.

The History of the Paris Climate Agreement

Over the course of two weeks in Paris, the UNFCCC 21st Conference of Parties discussed the details of an agreement to combat climate change around the world. The Paris Climate Agreement was the result of these efforts and supplemented the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. Unlike the agreement reached in Kyoto, however, the Paris Agreement applies to all nations around the world and not just those industrialized nations to which the Kyoto Protocol applied. The Paris Agreement required 55 nations to sign on before it could go into effect. On October 5, 2016, this threshold was reached and the Paris Agreement went into effect on November 4, 2016.

Who Has Signed the Paris Climate Agreement?

The signatories to the Paris Agreement include 197 parties to the UNFCCC. [https://unfccc.int/process/the-paris-agreement/status-of-ratification]. The United States formally joined as a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement in April 2016. This process was finalized through an executive order by President Barack Obama on August 29, 2016. On November 4, 2020, President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. Upon his inauguration, however, President Joe Biden immediately took steps to rejoin the agreement, an event that will take place on February 19, 2021. The only nations that produce significant emissions but have not signed the Paris Agreement are Turkey, Iran, and Iraq.

Key Provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Agreementestablishes standards and goals for fighting climate change. Some of the most important provisions of the document include the following:

  • The Paris Agreement is designed to operate on a five-year cycle that will progressively increase progress toward climate change. It accomplishes this through nationally determined contributions, which are mandatory communications sent to the UNFCCC about the specific actions being taken to reduce emissions by participating countries. These communications must be submitted every five years and must contain clear and transparent language that outlines the specific actions being taken by
  • Signatories to the Paris Agreement are also asked to formulate long-term strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to submit these to the United Nations. Unlike the nationally determined contributions, however, these are not mandatory on the part of the signatories to the climate agreement.
  • Developed countries are responsible for providing financial assistance for countries that do not have the same degree of resources with which to combat climate change. The Paris Agreement also encourages voluntary contributions from outside parties.
  • In recognition of the need for advanced technologies to replace fossil fuels and to manage issues caused by climate change, the Paris Agreement establishes a framework for providing guidance and support in developing and implementing new technologies and in making them widely available to the world.

Goals of the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is built around three ambitious goals:

  • Through combined efforts of all the signatories and other nations around the world, the Paris Agreement aims to limit the increase in global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius over average temperatures in the preindustrial levels. If possible, the increase should be held to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. This would require that the emission of greenhouse gases on a global scale begin a steady decline by 2020. To meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, greenhouse gas emissions must be eliminated by 2050.
  • Increasing adaptability for areas hard-hit by climate change by providing them with green-friendly ways to develop their resources is a second important goal of the Paris Agreement. This involves developing technologies that do not pollute but that offer help in providing protection against some of the worst effects of climate change on people, animals, and environments.
  • The Paris Agreement is also intended to provide a working financial framework for encouraging, developing and implementing technologies and structural elements necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement recognizes that without the appropriate financial resources, many areas of the world may suffer serious hardships because of global warming and climate change. By creating a financial structure that funnels relief to these areas, the Paris Agreement can promote a better quality of life for those most affected by these issues.

Successes and Challenges

While the goals of the Paris Agreement are a good step in the right direction in the fight against climate change, most experts say that these actions alone will not be enough to prevent the rise of global temperatures [https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/paris-global-climate-change-agreements]. The pledges made by most countries are not likely to reduce emissions quickly enough to achieve the goals set forth in the agreement. To make real progress against climate change and the factors that cause it, more must be done on a global, national and local level.

One of the most important omissions in the Paris Agreement is in its failure to address fossil fuels. Throughout the extraction, processing and use of these fuels, greenhouse gas emissions are produced. This oversight should be corrected in future iterations of the Paris Agreement or other climate change initiatives. If it is not, then one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions will remain untouched to continue the cycle of pollution and global warming.

The temporary withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement highlights another challenge to this global climate change initiative. When President Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement, he set a precedent that could be followed by other nations and that could seriously hamper our ability to take on global warming successfully. Making these agreements binding and instituting penalties for nations that do not live up to their pledges or that withdraw from climate change initiatives may be necessary to ensure the most effective progress against this serious issue.

The biggest success of the Paris Agreement, in our view, is the acknowledgement by most of the nations on Earth that climate change is a real threat and that more must be done to prevent it from progressing. Just as with any problem, the first step toward a solution is acknowledging that it exists. In the Paris Agreement, 195 nations have taken that step toward a green-friendly future.

In another big success to the pledge, India and China has asserted their commitment to peaking carbon emissions sooner than earlier expected and exceeding other benchmarks, according to Bank of America Securities report. You can also track the progress at the climate action tracker

We believe that international agreements like the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol are a good starting point for more aggressive and effective measures in the future. By focusing the concerted efforts of all countries on Earth on this existential threat, it may be possible to stop or even reverse the progress of climate change to create a brighter future for ourselves and for future generations of humans and animals.