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The Paris Agreement: Understanding the Global Climate Change Accord

In December 2015, 195 countries met in Paris to negotiate a climate change agreement that would help limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The result was the Paris Agreement, a historic accord that received international attention for its ambitious goals and widespread support.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international accord on climate change. Its main objective is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement also aims to enhance the ability of countries to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, promote sustainable development, and complete a transition to low-carbon economies.

The Paris Agreement replaces the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed in 1997 but only applied to developed countries and did not have the same level of global support. The Paris Agreement, in contrast, includes all countries regardless of their level of development or their historical emissions record.

Key Components of the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is a complex, multi-faceted document that covers a wide range of issues related to climate change. Some of its key components include:

– Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs): Each country is required to submit a plan outlining its targets and actions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These plans are known as Nationally Determined Contributions. This allows each country to determine its own level of ambition and take into account its unique circumstances.

– Long-term goals: The Paris Agreement sets a long-term goal of net-zero emissions in the second half of this century. This means that by the end of the century, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced must be equal to the amount removed from the atmosphere.

– Finance: The Paris Agreement recognizes the importance of providing financial resources to support developing countries in their efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change and to transition to low-carbon economies. Developed countries are expected to provide financial resources to developing countries totaling $100 billion per year by 2020.

– Transparency and accountability: The Paris Agreement establishes a system for monitoring and reporting on countries` progress toward their emissions reduction targets, and for regularly reviewing and assessing the effectiveness of the overall agreement.

What Has Happened Since Paris?

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, there has been progress, but also setbacks. Some of the notable developments include:

– Countries have continued to submit their NDCs and update them over time. However, many countries` targets are not ambitious enough to meet the 2-degree Celsius or 1.5-degree Celsius goals.

– The US, under President Barack Obama, played a key role in negotiating the Paris Agreement and was a signatory to the accord. However, in 2017, President Donald Trump announced the US`s intention to withdraw from the agreement. The US officially left the Paris Agreement on November 4, 2020, but has since rejoined under President Joe Biden.

– In 2019, the UN Secretary-General called for increased ambition and more urgent action from countries, warning that the world was not on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

What`s Next?

The upcoming climate conference, COP26 (Conference of Parties), scheduled to be held in Glasgow in November 2021, is expected to be a key moment for the Paris Agreement. Countries will need to come together to increase their ambition and accelerate action to address climate change.

As individuals, we can also play a role in supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement. We can reduce our own carbon footprint by conserving energy, reducing waste, and supporting clean energy solutions. We can also advocate for stronger climate policies and engage with our elected representatives to push for action on climate change.

The Paris Agreement is a significant milestone in the global effort to address climate change. While its goals are ambitious, they are also necessary if we are to prevent the worst impacts of climate change and ensure a sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.