What The Heck Is The Paris Agreement?

What Is The Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is one of the most talked-about treaties in the world and yet, it can be a bit hard to work out just what the Paris Agreement is. And isn’t.

So, we talked to a handful of environmental law experts and specialists.

We had them explain the Paris Agreement to us, in full, so that we could help you understand the Paris Agreement too without studying for a law degree!


What Is The Paris Agreement In A Nutshell?

The Paris Agreement is primarily concerned with climate change.

united nations paris

It is a United Nations framework convention that has 190 parties (countries and states) in total that have committed to avoiding “dangerous climate change”.

That means that the developed countries and developing countries that have signed up to the Paris climate agreement have agreed to ensure that they take action to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and, ideally, to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The Paris agreement is a legally binding agreement and the first global climate change agreement in history.


The Key Components Of The Framework Convention On Climate Change

It’s important to note that the Paris agreement in conjunction with the Kyoto protocol which underpins the ideas in the agreement, is a long complicated legal document, so we’ve pulled out the key ideas that help with pursuing efforts to limit the increase in climate change and the impacts of climate change.

It’s worth noting that this encompasses just one aspect of the UN’s sustainable development goals for the planet.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions

factory greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprints are inextricably linked with global warming.

The agreement acknowledges that these emissions must reach their peak as soon as possible and that this may take longer for developing countries than it will for developed countries.

And that once this peak is reached, all signatories will take rapid action to reduce these emissions.

All countries are required to submit a national climate action plan including nationally determined contributions and while these plans are not, yet, enough to combat climate change in their own right, they are a sign of the seriousness of this climate action.


Transparency And Global Stocktake

Talk is cheap but how will we know if action is really being taken to prevent global temperature rise? Well, the nations have agreed to come together to report on global greenhouse gas emissions and their own contributions to keeping temperatures under that 1.5 C level.

These reports will be made to all other nations and the general public and must conform to an agreed transparency and accountability system.


Adaptation Of Nations

Change doesn’t happen by itself. In fact, in most government structures change requires large amounts of structural support to get moving.

So, the agreement does just look to reduce their greenhouse gas output but also to ensure that the societies involved can deal with both the impact of the changing climate but also the reduction in global emissions.

In particular, there is a provision in the agreement for financial resources and other resources to be made available for developing nations to adapt their systems to meet the demands of this international treaty.

When the signatories meet every five years these provisions will be reviewed and the parties are committed to ensuring that they remain adequate to the task at hand.

They also make provisions for non-party stakeholders. That is the subnational authorities, societies, private sector, etc. which are not a party to the Paris agreement but, nevertheless, will be expected to assist in achieving the objectives of the agreement.

This includes systems to promote their participation in the efforts to keep the global average temperature under control and to become more resilient in the face of climate change issues and cooperate as needed to face down those issues.


Loss And Damage Avoidance

There is also an understanding that we can’t just rush to reach the global peaking of emissions and then slash those emissions to pre-industrial levels without considering the loss and damage that has already been caused by the changing climate.

In particular, there needs to be a focus on early warning systems, emergency preparedness, and the insurance against risks created by these losses.

It also demonstrates a need for the Paris agreement’s signatories to cooperate on the understanding of individual issues, take action on those issues, and support all affected parties by such actions.


Final Notes

The Paris agreement and the Kyoto protocol which underlies the agreement are fairly complicated documents but their objectives are fairly straightforward.

They represent the best hope for international cooperation to combat climate change and prevent further and future damage to the planet.

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