From November 30 to December 12, 2015, the city of Paris played host to the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to discuss the issues of climate change and review the gains that have been made so far from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. This conference also known as the United Nations Climate Change Conference negotiated the Paris Agreement which is essentially a global agreement on the reduction of climate change.
The agreement was to come into force when endorsed by at least 55 out of the 196 countries attending. On April 22, 2016 also known as the Earth Day, 174 countries went ahead to sign the agreement in New York and started adopting it straightaway within their legal systems through the process of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession.
The climate change pact, largely considered as the world’s first universal climate agreement is 31 pages long. To enable you get a quick overview of the agreement’s key points, here is a snapshot of 5 important points.
Limiting of Temperature rise below 2 Degrees Celsius
The parties in attendance made a commitment to keep the global rise in temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius. They also made ambitious projections to limit this even more to 1.5 degrees in future. Canadian officials agreed to this reduction in temperature and rallied their support to the long term goal of limiting the rise to within 1.5 degrees Celsius of preindustrial levels. According to scientists, the 2 degrees Celsius will limit the potential catastrophic events of climate change.
The First Universal Climate Change Agreement
The previous emissions treaty signed in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, did not mandate developing countries to reduce their emissions. Because of lack of solid commitment, Canada signed onto the Kyoto Protocol, but later on in 2011, backed out. However, the Paris Agreement presented by the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, was not only the first comprehensive climate agreement in the world, but also legally binding.
Helping Out Poorer Nations
Developing countries are set to get an annual figure to the tune of $100 billion from developed nations to help them combat climate change and push the agenda for greener economies. The agreement promotes universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries especially in Africa. According to the countries that attended and signed the agreement, this move can be accomplished by pursuing greater use of renewable energy.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets
In line with the Paris Agreement, countries will be tasked with the preparation, maintenance and publication of their own greenhouse gas reduction targets. According to the agreement, the targets must be greater than the current ones and reflect the highest possible ambition. The targets will be reviewed every 5 years starting 2023 and revised where necessary.
Carbon Neutral by 2100
The pact sets a goal of a carbon neutral world after 2050, but before 2100. This means a huge commitment to limiting greenhouse gas emission to the level where soil, trees and oceans can naturally absorb.
Scientists are keen to see countries dropping and even stopping greenhouse gas emission altogether in pursuit of this noble cause.