The brief definition: The Paris Climate Agreement is an international treaty that tackles the rising dangers of climate change. Since 2015, 197 nations have signed the agreement.
Before we proceed, let’s clear up one thing: the Agreement is not specific to Paris, it’s called the Paris Climate Agreement because that’s where the Agreement was first negotiated.
Prior to Paris, there had been previous efforts to address the looming consequences of climate change through treaties. There was the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer signed in 1987, and the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997, which sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the Paris Agreement is considered a game-changer, let’s take a look at why.
The Agreement was drafted at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21). This conference was an important one as the Paris Agreement was the first universal, legally binding global climate change agreement.
It was signed and came into effect in 2016.
The aims and how it works
The driving aim of the Agreement is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius, (preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius), compared to pre-industrial levels (before the industrial revolution).
This is implemented through both economic and social change based on the best available science. Nations have to individually submit their plans (known as nationally determined contributions). These contributions are mandatory for all signatories of the Agreement. The Agreement also allows countries to support each other. Developed countries are encouraged to take a lead on the action, and provide assistance with finance, technology, and capacity building.
So, how are the Paris Agreement and Glasgow Climate Conference related?
The Glasgow Climate Conference is an opportunity to assess how each nation is tracking with their respective and overall commitments in the Paris Agreement. Countries realised the commitments within the Paris Agreement (made in 2015) would not actually limit global warming to 1.5C (the target set). Therefore, nations agreed to review and update their own emissions reduction targets every five years – this was supposed to happen ahead of the Glasgow Climate Conference.
The Paris Agreement also requires developed countries to provide climate finance to support vulnerable and developing countries with the effects of climate change. A target was set for developed nations to provide 100 billion dollars annually by 2020. The developed nations, however, failed to meet that target last year. Now, vulnerable countries have used the Glasgow Climate Conference to express their concerns around the lack of climate finance, and have urged nations to provide further funding.