Norms and regulations

COP 21: climate agreement achieved in Paris

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Global warming to be contained below 2°C. More time for developing countries to achieve the climate goals.

It seemed hard, if not impossible. But finally, after days of discussions and negotiations, a global climate agreement was achieved: the Paris Agreement is a 31-pages protocol that is not binding at an international level but is based on voluntary commitments by the 196 member countries of the UNO Framework Convention on climate change. In order to enter into force, this agreement will have to be ratified by at least 55 nations which must represent at least 55% of the global anthropogenic carbon emissions. This process might be quite long, considering that it took 8 years for the Kyoto Protocol.

The goal of containing the global temperature increase below 2°C was agreed upon. In addition to that, steps were outlined to achieve a more ambitious target, 1.5°C, as recommended by scientists.

The agreement is based on the principle of shared but differentiated responsibility. Each country will need to assume increasingly high commitments over time, and developing countries will receive support for an effective implementation of the agreement. This mainly applies to China and India, recently industrialized economic giants that cannot, nor want to, abruptly interrupt their development. This is why the agreement uses different verbs to refer to different responsibilities: “must”, “should” and “can” are referred respectively to developed countries (which have to meet “reduction goals”), developing countries (which are asked to make “mitigation efforts”) and particularly vulnerable countries.

In general, the text of the agreement mentions the consequences of actions aimed at fighting climate change and introduces the concept of “climate justice”. However, it ignores the historical responsibilities behind climate change.

Each country will have to make sure that their new voluntary national contributions are updated every five years to aim at gradually more ambitious targets. Although every country shares this responsibility, different degrees of responsibility and abilities will be taken into account.

With respect to sustainable development, two mechanisms were introduced: the first one is a market mechanism aimed at the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement specifies that all parties must guarantee environmental integrity, transparency, and a robust account system in order to avoid the problem of double counting, namely accounting of emission reduction commitments twice.

The second mechanism does not concern the market and rather consists in an integrated, holistic approach that includes measures for mitigation, adaptation, capacity building, finance, and technological transfer.

The document underlines how all parties acknowledged the importance of avoiding, minimizing and managing the losses and damages caused by the negative effects of climate change. The practical consequences of these statements concern the funds dedicated to this issue and international solidarity: the industrialized countries declared their readiness to support the carbon neutrality process for developing countries, and were encouraged to finance the Green Climate Fund. However, the document requests the allocation of no more than 100 billion dollars between 2010 and 2015.

Click here to download the text of the agreement.

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