The Paris Agreement: A new framework for global climate action

Briefing 11-01-2016

The Paris Agreement was adopted on 12 December 2015 by the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It provides a framework for global actions to address climate change in the period after 2020. The objective of the agreement is to maintain the increase in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, whilst making efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The agreement aims to ensure global greenhouse gas emissions peak as soon as possible, and to balance emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. Furthermore, the agreement addresses adaptation to climate change, financial and other support for developing countries, technology transfer and capacity building, as well as loss and damage. In contrast to the Kyoto Protocol, which commits only developed countries to specific reduction targets, the Paris Agreement requires all countries to prepare nationally determined contributions (NDCs), take measures to achieve their objectives, and report on progress. In order to raise the level of ambition over time, Parties must submit updated NDCs every five years. Each Party's new NDC must be more ambitious than its previous NDC. Initial reactions to the Paris Agreement were mostly positive, but commentators note that huge efforts will be needed to overcome the gap between the ambition of the agreement and the emission reductions pledged by the Parties.