COP21: the conclusions of the climate agreement

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“The draft agreement is differentiated, fair, sustainable, dynamic, balanced and legally binding.” These were the words with which Laurent Fabius, COP21 Chairman and French Foreign Minister, introduced the Paris Agreement.


After months of bargaining and two weeks of intense negotiations at Le Bourget, the 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) unanimously adopted the first universal climate agreement on December 12 this year.


The key conclusions of this agreement, described by many as historic, are as follows:


  • It confirms the prime objective of containing global temperature increase to below 2°C relative to preindustrial levels, and calls for the most energetic efforts to be made to contain the rise to 1.5°C


  • In terms of reduction, the ‘global emissions ceiling’ must be reached ‘in the shortest-possible time’, with countries targeting emissions neutrality in the second half of the century. The agreement invites all countries to publish national strategies detailing the methods they intend to use in order to deliver on their commitments


  • The agreement emphasizes that part of the Green Fund must be devoted to the issue of adaptation, which in plain terms means the aid provided by developed countries to those most affected by climate change. A technology transfer mechanism is also outlined as a more effective way of countering the consequences of global warming


  • In terms of climate, all countries share responsibility, but in different proportions determined primarily by their historic level of responsibility and their current level of development. The agreement stipulates that the world’s developed countries “shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.” At the same time, developing countries “should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts (…) in the light of different national circumstances.” Lastly, the agreement emphasizes that “support shall be provided to developing country Parties” by the more economic advanced nations.


  • In terms of financial support, the agreement sets the collective goal for the period from 2020 onwards of devoting USD100 billion in loans and donations to fund projects enabling the most seriously affected countries (in terms of drought, flooding, rising sea levels, etc.) to adapt to climate change and/or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some developing countries may “on a voluntary basis” also provide financial resources to help the very poorest countries


  • As part of promoting transparency, the agreement introduces a mechanism for monitoring commitments every five years from 2025 onwards (the agreement itself becoming effective in 2020). This monitoring process will enable differentiated contributions to be revised upwards in accordance with the principle of progression. An initial meeting between the signatory parties has already been set for 2018 in order to assess progress towards achieving the targets set


  • Lastly, on the issue of carbon pricing, the agreement emphasizes the desirability of a framework structured to encourage stakeholders to reduce their emissions. This confirms the initiative launched at the start of the COP21 meeting with the French President, and which has already enabled more than 60 states and regions to introduce carbon pricing. The agreement enshrines mechanisms for the transfer of greenhouse gas emission reductions, the methods for which will be defined in time for COP22 on the basis of voluntary participation by the Parties


In order to become effective in 2020, the agreement must be ratified, accepted or approved by a minimum of 55 countries together representing at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions.