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What is the Paris Agreement?

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

We are at a crucial moment to successfully address one of the most important challenges in our history: climate change. The effects of this transformation are visible on a daily basis, ranging from the increase in the number of catastrophic weather events to the gradual and threatening rise in the level of our oceans. A danger of this magnitude can only be curbed with joint action by all countries of the world, and the Paris Agreement represents the way to make this possible.

The Paris Agreement is the first global, legally binding commitment to address the negative effects of climate change. It was signed during the 21st Paris Conference in 2015 and has the approval of 197 countries. Its main objective is to ensure substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by stepping up the efforts and investments needed for a sustainable future.

vía @Latinclima

Key elements of the Paris Agreement

Governments agreed to strengthen global response mechanisms to the threat of climate change. To this end, the document establishes the long-term goal of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2°C, with respect to the levels established before the Industrial Revolution. In addition, the nations involved pledged to do everything possible to prevent these levels from exceeding 1.5°C.

Considering that global emissions must reach their maximum levels as soon as possible, the group recognizes that this objective will be more difficult for developing economies to meet. In this regard, it was agreed to provide greater financial support to these countries.

Every five years, governments will meet to review progress on the collective long-term goals, and will report to stakeholders and the general public on improvements achieved at the national level.

In view of the need to improve mechanisms for action in various emergency areas, governments also agreed to increase awareness-raising plans for societies to strengthen their capacity to cope with the effects of climate change.

  • Keep global temperatures well below 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels, seeking ways to limit the rise to 1.5°C.

  • Review countries' contribution to emissions reductions every five years.

  • Assist poorer nations by providing climate finance for adaptation to climate change and switching to renewable energy.

  • Meet every five years to assess collective progress towards long-term goals and report to Parties on updating and improving their nationally determined contributions.

  • Report to other governments and the public on their progress in implementing climate action measures

  • Assess progress towards meeting their commitments under the Agreement through a robust transparency and accountability mechanism.

  • Increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change.

  • Maintain and enhance regional and international cooperation.

Another important aspect of the Agreement is that it emphasizes the importance of adapting to the adverse effects of climate change, including among its objectives the increase in the capacity to adapt to the losses and damages already caused by climate change.

How will the development of the Agreement be supported?

The Paris Agreement lays the foundation for a transformation towards low-emission and climate-resilient development models. To this end, a substantial financial package is available to support the implementation of the Agreement, in particular in least developed countries and small island states, and should be built on the mobilization target of US$100 billion per year, starting in 2020, from various sources.

At COP21 in Paris, a Capacity Building Committee (Paris Committee) has also been established to identify gaps and needs in developing countries in this area and to improve coherence and coordination in its activities.

Why do we need this agreement?

The fight against climate change will not be successful if each nation acts separately. The Paris Agreement has been successful because it allows each government to set its own targets and strategies for emissions reductions. It also recognizes the importance of investors, businesses, academia, the church, trade unions and civil society in achieving the sustainability goals set out.

Global warming will have profound negative impacts on many of the natural resources we need to live, such as water, air and food. We need to join forces to reduce the aggressiveness of emissions, as inaction will result in increased risks of flooding, heat waves and reduction of natural habitat as we know it.

The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented commitment due to the number of governments involved. For this reason, it is the best way to ensure the international cooperation needed to meet the challenges of climate change.

How has the Paris Agreement evolved?

Five years later, although some countries have ensured their decarbonization in the long term (2050 or 2060), the states are far from the drastic reduction of emissions needed in the next decade to avoid the impacts of climate change, which involve countless economic losses and a high cost in human lives and biodiversity.

Although Spain is advancing on an optimal climate path, with good actions such as the promotion of the climate law, it is still far from the scientific recommendations to comply with the Paris Agreement, by only betting on an emissions reduction of 23% in 2030 compared to 1990. (GreenPeace)

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