An Introduction to the Paris Agreement

August 15, 2016 3 min read

An Introduction to the Paris Agreement

Though it’s felt differently across the planet, climate change is happening everywhere, and it needs to be dealt with globally.

Perhaps this is what makes the historical Paris Agreement such a monumental move forward as nations act on climate.  Since we are dealing with a global issue, collaboration amongst countries will increase the likelihood of success for everyone, near and far.

In December of 2015, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held their 21st annual Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris, France.

“At COP 21 in Paris, Parties to the UNFCCC reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.”

Before getting too far into talks about the future, it’s important to have an understanding of the past.  For starters, let’s take a look at what the UNFCCC is all about, and how the COP began.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

In 1992, there was an international political response to climate change when world leaders came together at the Rio Earth Summit.  Here, the UNFCCC, along with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification were adopted. 

It officially came into effect on March 21st, 1994, and now has a membership of almost 200 nations.  To be exact, a total of 197 countries ratified the convention – these nations are referred to as Parties of the Convention.

Conference of the Parties (COP)

Parties of the Convention come together annually to review the implementations to date and propose the adoption of new agreements.  The COP happens in a different country each year and has been known to produce different protocols and action plans to help support the goal of stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs). 

Paris Agreement

A breakthrough agreement was reached at COP 21 in Paris bringing all nations together in a global climate effort.  Designed to unify nations under a policy framework applicable to everyone, not just industrialized nations, this agreement is still making headlines today. 

Though the agreement is detailed and contains many elements, one of the biggest components directly relates to the concerns surrounding global temperature rise. 

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

The aforementioned central aim can be viewed as a preventative measure taken to mitigate further risks brought on by climate change.  However, the impacts are being felt now, and action needs to be taken immediately to deal with the current impacts of climate change.  The agreement also makes a commitment to the development of new frameworks that support financial flow and technological improvements necessary to keep the temperature from rising. 

Earth Day 2016

April 22nd, 2016 marked another monumental moment for collective action on climate.  The UN Headquarters was open for signatures of commitment. 

To date, 22 of 197 parties have ratified the agreement, collectively representing only 1.08% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“…the Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 % of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the Depositary.”

Each party represents a group of individuals.  It’s up to each and every one of us to help empower our nations’ leaders to make the commitment for global action on climate change.

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