Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The Paris agreement is an Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was adopted by 195 nations on 12th December 2015 at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP – the supreme decision making body to the UNFCCC) held in Paris. Giving emphasis to the concepts like climate justice and sustainable lifestyles, the Paris Agreement is a historic agreement to combat climate change and direct actions and promote investments towards a low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable future.
The Paris Agreement brings for the first time all nations into a common cause based on their historic, current and future responsibilities to combat climate change. The Agreement’s main aim is to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The Paris Agreement has 29 Articles consisting of 139 paras and covers all the crucial areas identified as essential for a landmark conclusion that includes mitigation- reducing emissions, transparency system and global stock take- accounting for climate action, adaptation- enhancing the capacity of countries to deal with climate impacts, loss and damage - strengthening ability to recover from climate impacts; and support- including finance, for nations to build clean, resilient futures.
The Paris Agreement is different from its predecessor - Kyoto Protocol- in the sense that nations settled on a bottom-up approach in this agreement allowing each nation to submit its own national plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions rather than trying to follow a top down approach.
In 1992, countries agreed on the UNFCCC, to decide on the actions that would be required at a global level to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with its impacts. In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted which legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. The Protocol’s first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The second commitment period began on 1 January 2013 and will end in 2020.
In 2010, at the Climate Change Conference in Cancun, governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius. The UN Climate Change Conference held in Durban in the subsequent year, in 2011, was a decisive moment in the climate change negotiations. In Durban, governments clearly recognized the need to draw up the blueprint for a fresh universal agreement to deal with climate change beyond 2020, where all will play their part to the best of their ability and all will be able to reap the benefits of success together. In short, all governments committed to a comprehensive plan that would come closer over time to delivering the ultimate objective of the Convention - to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent our dangerous interference with the climate system and at the same time will preserve the right to sustainable development. Thus, the origin of the current Paris Agreement goes back to the outcome of Durban Conference which included a decision by Parties to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, through an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP). It was also decided that the ADP will start its work from 2012 and will complete its work no later than 2015.ADP continued its work since then and progress towards developing a new text agreement continued at 18th, 19th and 20th COP held in Doha, Warsaw and Lima in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Salient features of the Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement states in its decision that the new Agreement is under the UNFCCC and will come into force when at least 55 Parties to the Convention, accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.The Agreement will be opened for one year for signature on 22 April 2016 - Mother Earth Day.
The important features of the agreement are given below:
- The principle of Common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) has been maintained across all the pillars of the agreement (mitigation, adaptation, finance, transparency etc) which was one of the contentious issue between developed and developing countries during the negotiations.
- Setting a long term direction, countries will peak their emissions as soon as possible.
- Countries will submit updated climate plans – called nationally determined contributions (NDCs) – every five years, thereby steadily increasing their ambition in the long-term.
- This in effect builds on the momentum of the effort of 188 national climate action plans submitted so far.
- The new Agreement also establishes the principle that future national plans will have to be a progression of previous efforts. This effectively means 188 climate action plans submitted so far provide a firm floor and foundation for higher ambition.
- Climate action will also be taken forward in the period before 2020. Countries will continue to engage in a process on mitigation opportunities and will put added focus on adaptation opportunities. Additionally, they will work to define a clear roadmap on ratcheting up climate finance to USD 100 billion by 2020.
- The already broad and ambitious efforts of developing countries to build their own clean, climate-resilient futures will be supported by scaled-up finance from developed countries and voluntary contributions from other countries.
- Governments decided that they will work to define a clear roadmap on ratcheting up climate finance to USD 100 billion by 2020 while also before 2025 setting a new goal on the provision of finance from the USD 100 billion floor.
- The agreement includes a transparency framework for both action and support. The framework will provide clarity on countries’ mitigation and adaptation actions, as well as the provision of support. At the same time, it recognizes that Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States have special circumstances.
- The agreement includes a global stocktake starting in 2023 to assess the collective progress towards the goals of the agreement. The stocktake will be done every five years.
- The agreement includes a compliance mechanism, overseen by a committee of experts that operates in a non-punitive way.
The Paris Agreement acknowledges and recognizes the development imperatives of developing countries, supports their right to develop and their efforts to harmonize development with environment. The important feature is that the Agreement refers to the differentiation between the actions of developed and developing countries in all its relevant clauses and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities in the light of different national circumstances has been maintained across all pillars of the agreement.
On 20 April 2016, the Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi gave its approval for signing the Paris Agreement. Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar, signed the agreement on behalf of India on 22 April 2016.
- Sustainable Development Goals
- India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution
- Climate Change and Climate Variability
- Clean Development Mechanism
- Green Climate Fund
- National Action Plan on Climate Change
- Green India Mission
- Durban Climate change conference-November/ December 2011.
- Paris Climate Change Conference – November/December 2015.
- Report of the Conference of the Parties on its seventeenth session, held in Durban from 28 November to 11 December 2011.