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Paris Agreement: All you Need to Know
Blog...Paris Agreement: All you Need to Know

Paris Agreement: All you Need to Know

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The Paris Agreement is an international treaty aimed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions – but how does the Paris Agreement successfully address climate change?
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Between the UNGC's Agenda 2030 and IPCC – it can be hard to keep track of all of the international protocols in place that are attempting to create real environmental change. 

👉 What is the Paris Agreement, and how does it incentivise nations around the globe to reduce their carbon emissions and fight against climate change? 

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement, otherwise known as the Paris Agreement – is an international treaty that aims to fight against climate change. It was initially adopted back in December of 2015 at the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, and officially came into effect in November of 2016.

The main goal of the Paris Agreement is to reduce levels of global greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (compared to pre-industrialisation levels) - this is the global temperature rise limit set by scientists, above which climate change will result in catastrophic and potentially irreversible changes. Though, the Paris Agreement is determined to go further than this and aims to keep the global temperature limited to 1.5 degrees celsius.

👉 The Paris Agreement serves as the world's first binding agreement that demands that all nations around the world, contribute to the fight against climate change by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions – regardless of their industrialisation levels or financial standing.

In other words, even countries that aren't considered “power house” countries must adhere to the Paris Agreement. 

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How is the Paris Agreement different from the Kyoto Protocol?

The Kyoto Protocol

Before the Paris Agreement, a different international treaty existed called the Kyoto Protocol.

👉 The Kyoto Protocol was first established in Kyoto, Japan, back in 1997. Its goal is to mitigate excessive carbon emissions in order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) in the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol aimed to encourage industrialised nations to implement the measures necessary to reduce their carbon emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol made use of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by asking industrialised countries to reduce their emissions and align their greenhouse gas reduction targets with their other various environmental goals. 

The Kyoto Protocol did not get renewed, but its original goals lives on in new treaties and ultimately led to the adoption of other international conventions and treaties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – such as the Paris Agreement. 

The COP21 Paris contribution

COP21, otherwise known as the Conference of the Parties, took place in Paris in 2015 and marked a historic advancement in the fight against climate change.

👉 Delegates signed a new climate change agreement that would later become known as the Paris agreement - this agreement officially took the place of the Kyoto Protocol. 

Differences between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement

The primary difference between the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement is that the Kyoto Protocol only made reducing greenhouse gas emissions a requirement for developed nations, whereas the Paris Agreement views climate change as a global issues and requires all countries to commit to the same level of dedication to reduce their overall emissions.

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How does the Paris Agreement work?

Given that countries all around the world are required to report under the Paris Agreement, you might think that managing the agreement is complicated, however this isn't the case.

Enhanced transparency framework

Under the Paris Agreement – countries are required to report under an enhanced transparency framework, otherwise known as the ETF.

From 2024, through the use of the ETF, countries will be able to clearly report their progress in terms of emissions reductions and respective actions taken to prevent climate change so that international authorities can adequately measure each individual nation's progress. 

👉 The Paris Agreement encourages countries to peak in terms of their greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, in the hope that the rate of emissions can begin to dramatically fall as a result of more concrete measures taken to mitigate climate change.

As this is a tall order, the Paris Agreement recognises that developing countries will take longer to achieve this climate target than well-established, industrialised nations. This is because industrialised nations have the infrastructure, funding and green technology that will allow them to decarbonise at a much faster rate. Whereas developing countries are faced with the challenge of developing and raising living standards for citizens (something that requires a lot of energy) while also trying to transition to a low carbon society.

Science Based Targets Initiative

The Paris Agreement also incentives countries to take drastic measures to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in conjunction with science and technology, such as through the SBTi, otherwise known as the Science Based Targets Initiative. 

Nationally determined contributions (NDCs)

In addition to these incentives, the Paris Climate Agreement requires that all countries submit an NDC – otherwise known as a nationally determined contribution that clearly depicts their future climate action plans as a nation.

While many of the NDCs (nationally determined contributions) provided by countries under the Paris Agreement are not strong enough to keep the global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees celsius – the treaty helps to pave the way for future climate actions to be taken.

👉 In other words, the Paris Agreement helps countries to build the momentum necessary to implement the strict measures necessary to fight global warming. 

All of the information collected through the enhanced transparency framework - or ETF – is then assessed and evaluated so that the Paris Agreement can make suggestions for future NDCs for the following year. 

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What is required of each country under the Paris Agreement?

Almost every nation in the world is committed to the Paris Agreement – a whopping 197 countries! 👍

An overwhelming majority of countries have validated their commitment to the treaty.

The countries that continue to be responsible for excessive carbon emissions yet to join include Iran, Turkey, and Iraq. Still, this leaves most of the world under the Paris Agreement – meaning most of them have to comply with its requirements. 

Reduction, mitigation and transparency

In addition to encouraging the use of science, technology, and financial support wherever possible in order to reduce global emissions and lower the global surface temperature to pre-industrialisation levels – there are many other expectations for those who have signed the Paris Agreement.

For instance, countries committed to the Paris Agreement are expected to practice mitigation measures and establish clear transparency and accountability regarding their NDCs.

Developed countries who are a part of the Paris Agreement should continue to support developing countries in their efforts to reduce emissions whenever possible.

👉 The Paris Agreement also encourages participating countries to conserve carbon sinks and reservoirs, reduce vulnerability risks related to climate change through adaptive measures, and mitigate further loss or damage of valuable resources such as biodiversity. 

5 year assessment

Countries who are part of the Paris Agreement are also expected to take part in an assessment every five years to ensure continuous improvement regarding their individual NDC.

👉 The Paris Agreement will evaluate each NDC every five years with the newest available science in mind, in order to help each country reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the greatest extent they possibly can. 

In general, all countries part of the Paris Agreement must adhere to the continuous efforts to improve climate change mitigation measures – meaning any country that is a part of the treaty must remain diligent and motivated to meet the global warming goals presented in the Paris Agreement. 

The Paris Agreement and developing countries

The Paris Climate Agreement recognises that developing countries that are a part of the treaty will require more time and resources to accomplish their individual climate goals, this is why the treaty encourages other countries to voluntarily support these developing countries in any way that they can.

Support from developed nations

This support can be financial, technological, or may involve assistance in building a community to further develop climate change goals. 

👉 The Paris Agreement supports industrialised countries in financially aiding developing countries, as implementing successful greenhouse gas and carbon emission reduction measures are next to impossible without the use and support of climate finance or sustainable finance.

Investments such as these can ultimately benefit both the developed and developing countries in their long-term climate change goals. 

Many developed countries have implemented new carbon-reducing technologies such as a carbon capture and storage systems in order to help them reduce their carbon footprint. However, many developing countries do not have the resources to purchase or install such technologies that could help them achieve their carbon reduction goals.

Financially established countries can voluntarily help developing countries acquire these technologies or to implement renewable energy infrastructure. The Paris Agreement ultimately encourages the development of new technologies that can aid in meeting the overall goals implemented by the agreement.

It is clear that the Paris Agreement wants to achieve emission reductions collectively – but has the climate change treaty proven itself successful so far?

Has the Paris Agreement been successful in mitigating further climate change?

Global warming is not abating

The bitter truth is, climate change is still accelerating – and the only way to stop further global warming is to adopt more demanding and extreme measures into treaties like the Paris Agreement. If the world is serious about limiting the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius or achieving net-zero emissions, there is simply no other way.

However, despite this, the Paris Agreement has still encouraged many new low-carbon solutions and has propelled countries to create a clean energy economy.

👉 A new, overwhelming amount of countries around the world have committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, and many countries like the U.S. and the U.K. have made great leaps to establish more concrete climate change measures – like the new U.S. climate billlegislation in California, and the United Kingdom's Ten Point Plan

For this reason many consider the Paris Agreement to have been a success successful. However, the world is still burning – literally. The U.K. suffered from record-breaking heat waves this past summer, unprecedented megastorms are brewing, and natural disasters provoked by climate change continue to batter the planet. 

The Paris Agreement is accomplishing what it set out to do: motivate countries to commit to the climate fight and report on their reduction of greenhouse gasses and carbon emissions.

Progress but the fight is not over

Many countries have since implemented their own plans to fight against climate change – but most of the measures currently in place are not enough to reverse the globe's surface temperature rise. Therefore, it's important to note that the Paris Agreement will not serve as our saviour – it is up to each and every one of us to play our part in the ongoing fight against climate change.

⚠️ In short, even monumental treaties like the Paris Agreement are not enough to reverse the already existing environmental damage that we humans have done through industrialisation and other high carbon emitting activities.

It is clear that there has been an increase in the number of stringent measures in recent years since the Paris Agreement was established in order to mitigate the superfluous emissions that we continue to produce.

While these measures may initially seem extreme, things like banning the purchase of gasoline-powered cars are what will help us transition to a clean-energy society and end our dependency on fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere.  

Sadly there is no magic solution to climate change – not even the Paris Agreement is capable of undoing all the harm to the environment that's already been done. International treaties serve to unify the world against climate change and this is incredibly important, but what's even more important is the intrinsic motivation to reduce emissions – contrary to whatever is written down on paper. 

The Paris Agreement is a step in the right direction and has motivated countries across the world to join in the fight against climate change, but it's most certainly not the end. 

What about Greenly?

If reading this article about the Paris Agreement has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!

Click here to learn more about Greenly and how we can help you reduce your carbon footprint.

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