A Summary of the Paris Climate Agreement

The Paris Agreement represents the most ambitious and comprehensive policy effort to tackle climate change to date, setting aggressive emissions reduction goals for the 21st century. Negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement establishes a structure for global engagement, follow-up and cooperation among nations. Among the key elements of the Paris Agreement are:

    • Adopted in December 2015 and entered into force in November 2016.

    • Replaces the Kyoto Protocol as the guiding international framework on climate change.

    • As of May 2021, 191 out of 197 parties (i.e. a country or group of countries) to the UNFCCC had ratified the Paris Agreement.

    • Aims to limit the increase in global average temperature to "well below" 2ºC relative to pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5ºC.

    • Seeks to achieve net-zero emissions during the second half of the 21st century by balancing emissions with the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

    • Does not establish legally binding emissions targets by country. Instead, each party agrees to voluntarily submit a non-binding Nationally Determined Contribution outlining its planned contributions toward the Paris Agreement's goals

    • The strength of each party's Nationally Determined Contribution is generally expected to align with its level of economic development and ability to contribute.

    • While achievement of the Nationally Determined Contributions is not legally binding, parties are legally required to engage in domestic climate change mitigation efforts in pursuit of the Nationally Determined Contributions.

    • Nationally Determined Contributions are updated every five years and should become progressively more ambitious with each update.

    • Every five years, beginning in 2023, a "global stocktake" will occur to assess collective progress toward the Agreement's goals and guide future Nationally Determined Contribution updates.

    • All parties are expected to provide clear, transparent information regarding progress against their Nationally Determined Contributions. The information provided will be subject to technical expert review to independently assess achievements and suggest areas for improvement.

    • Parties who do not achieve their Nationally Determined Contributions are not subject to punitive measures; the Paris Agreement is designed to foster collective trust and mutual support among all parties.

    • Developed countries are expected to provide financial and technological support to developing countries to help them contribute to the Paris Agreement's goals.

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