The Paris Agreement on climate change – A summary

4 April 2016

Article by Chloe Corbyn, National Assembly for Wales Research Service

Paris COP 21 Logo

Image from flickr by Ron Mader. Licensed under the Creative Commons

In November and December 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC COP21) took place in Paris. UNFCC is an international environmental agreement on climate change, of which there are 195 States Parties, including the UK.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned of the consequences of failing to limit global temperature rises to at least 2 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial times), highlighting that the impacts would pose a threat to humanity and could lead to irreversible climate change.

The meeting in Paris was hailed as a make-or-break opportunity to secure an international agreement on approaches to tacking climate change, a commitment to a longer-term goal of near zero net emissions in the second half of the century, and supporting a transition to a clean economy and low carbon society.

The key points of the Paris agreement are summarised below. The agreement is due to come into force in 2020.

Mitigation: reducing emissions

Governments agreed:

  • A long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • To aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change;
  • On the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries;
  • To undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.

Before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans (INDCs). These are not yet enough to keep global warming below 2°C, but the agreement traces the way to achieving this target.

Transparency and global stocktake

Governments agreed to:

  • Come together every 5 years to set more ambitious targets as required by science;
  • Report to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets;
  • Track progress towards the long-term goal through a robust transparency and accountability system.

Adaptation

Governments agreed to:

  • Strengthen societies’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change;
  • Provide continued and enhanced international support for adaptation to developing countries.

Loss and damage

The agreement also:

  • Recognises the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change;
  • Acknowledges the need to cooperate and enhance the understanding, action and support in different areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparedness and risk insurance.

Support

  • The EU and other developed countries will continue to support climate action to reduce emissions and build resilience to climate change impacts in developing countries.
  • Other countries are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily.
  • Developed countries intend to continue their existing collective goal to mobilise USD 100 billion per year until 2025 when a new collective goal will be set.

Wales has an important role to play in helping the wider UK to meet this target and the Environment (Wales) Act will provide a strong legislative framework for action in this area. With the advent of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, Wales is making a commitment to moving forwards with sustainability, environmental resilience and global responsibility at the heart of all decision making.

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