The Paris Agreement is an international treaty aimed at addressing climate change and its impacts. It was created to hold all signees to account in adopting processes and regulations in their countries that would help to decrease the impact of global warming, with the aim of bringing the global average temperature to 2 degrees celsius.
It was adopted on December 12, 2015, at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris, France. The agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016, after it was ratified by a large number of countries.
The primary goal of the agreement is to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, with efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).
This aims to prevent the most catastrophic effects of climate change. To be able to achieve this, the Paris Agreement focuses on meeting this overarching objective through smaller goals:
Countries that are parties to the agreement commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to contribute to the global temperature goals. Each country sets its own emission reduction targets, known as "nationally determined contributions" (NDCs).
The Paris Agreement recognizes the need to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, especially vulnerable and developing nations. It calls for increased support for adaptation efforts and encourages countries to develop adaptation plans.
The agreement establishes a framework for monitoring and reporting on countries' progress in implementing their NDCs. It also includes a global stocktake process to assess collective progress toward the temperature goals.
Developed countries are expected to provide financial assistance to developing countries to help them transition to low-carbon economies and cope with the impacts of climate change.
The Paris Agreement promotes the sharing of clean energy and sustainable technologies among countries to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon future.
The Paris Agreement operates by fostering international cooperation and setting up a framework for countries to make voluntary commitments to reduce emissions and enhance climate resilience. In terms of how it functions, there are several ways in which the signers of the Paris Agreement are measured:
As of September 2023, the Paris Agreement target of reducing the global average temperature to 2 degrees celsius below pre-industrial levels is not on track. A report by the U.N.'s climate body found that temperatures are rising by more than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and warned of a “rapidly narrowing window to raise ambition and implement existing commitments."
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has the ambition to reduce the global average temperature even further to 1.5 degrees celsius, which as of now is looking bleak.
The Paris Agreement holds immense importance as it signifies a worldwide dedication to confronting the urgent challenge of climate change. It establishes a structured approach for countries to:
The Paris Agreement is a global consensus on climate change. It represents a rare instance of nearly all nations coming together to acknowledge that human activities are driving climate change. It underscores the consensus that climate change poses a significant threat to both the environment and humanity, necessitating a collective global response.
It also seeks to measure and change human activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, that have significantly increased the levels of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane in the atmosphere. These gasses trap heat and contribute to the greenhouse effect, resulting in global warming and climate disruption.
The impact of climate change also induces extreme weather events and sea-level rise can force people to migrate, displacing entire populations. The most recent examples of this include the wildfires that spread across Europe throughout the summer of 2023, and the decommissioning of the Welsh village of Fairbourne by 2025 due to rising sea levels.
The Paris Agreement was signed on April 22, 2016. This significant event took place during the signing ceremony held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The Paris Agreement is open to all United Nations member states and regional economic integration organizations, such as the European Union - a total of 196 countries and the European Union signed the Paris Agreement.
While most countries in the EU did sign the Paris Agreement, there are a few that signed but did not ratify it. Those notable countries included Iran, which accounts for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions globally and is one of 14 members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) - as is Libya, who also signed but did not ratify. Yemen and Eritrea also have not ratified the agreement.
There is a case where countries who had signed can withdraw - this is by issuing an Article 28 notice. This can be issued no earlier than three years after the agreement goes into force for the country. Withdrawal is effective one year after the depositary is notified.
Some countries initially choose not to sign but later decide to join the agreement due to evolving circumstances, international pressure, or shifts in leadership and public opinion.
The Paris Agreement represents a legally binding international treaty that obligates its parties to take concrete actions to combat climate change and work collectively to limit global warming. If a country wishes to withdraw from it, there’s a lengthy process in place that enables them to do so.
Under the terms of the agreement, any party that chooses to withdraw must wait a minimum of three years from the agreement's entry into force before initiating the withdrawal process, and there is an additional one-year waiting period before the withdrawal takes effect.
Yes, the United Kingdom is part of the Paris Agreement. The UK is a party to the agreement, having signed it on April 22, 2016, and ratified it on November 17, 2016.
Yes, the US is part of the Paris Agreement - but the country has had a complex relationship with it. The United States initially signed the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016. However, the process of formally withdrawing from the agreement was initiated by the Trump administration in 2017. This withdrawal process took effect on November 4, 2020.
Following the presidential election in 2020, the United States, under the Biden administration, reversed the previous decision and officially rejoined the Paris Agreement. The re-entry came into effect on February 19, 2021. As a result, the United States is once again a party to the Paris Agreement