Global community has pledged to hold global warming to ‘well below’ two degrees Celsius by cutting emissions as soon as possible.
On Dec. 12, 2015, 195 countries gathered in the French capital concluded the world’s first universal climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, aimed at preventing worst-case scenario global warming levels.
The pact crossed the ratification threshold on Oct. 5 this year, in record time, when the European Union, as a party to the agreement, and seven of its member states officially signed off on it. This rounded off the required participation of 55 parties responsible for 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions for the pact to enter into force.
These are the key points in the Paris Agreement:
Nations agreed to hold global warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels, and to strive for 1.5 C. The lower goal was a demand of poor countries and island states at high risk of climate change effects such as sea-level rise and drought.
But experts say even 2 C will be a tough task, requiring much deeper cuts to planet-warming emissions from burning coal, oil and gas. Scientists warn that on current rates, we are headed for a 4 C-warmer world, or about 3 C if countries actually meet self-determined targets for cutting carbon.
The world will aim for emissions to peak “as soon as possible,” with “rapid reductions” thereafter. Countries submitted non-binding carbon-cutting goals to bolster the agreement.
There are no binding deadlines or goals as there were in the agreement’s predecessor—the Kyoto Protocol—whose restrictions applied only to developed nations. By the second half of this century, says the Paris Agreement, there must be a balance between emissions from human activities such as energy production and farming, and the amount that can be captured by carbon-absorbing “sinks” such as forests or storage technology.
Developed countries, which have polluted for longer, must take the lead with absolute emissions cuts. Developing nations which still need to burn coal and oil to power growing populations and economies, are encouraged to “continue enhancing” their efforts and “move over time” toward cuts.
In 2018, and every five years thereafter, countries will take stock of the overall impact of what they are doing to rein in global warming, according to the text. In 2020, countries come up against the first deadline for updating their carbon-curbing pledges. Some set targets for 2025, others for 2030. Both categories will be updated five-yearly.
Rich countries “shall provide” funding to help developing countries make the costly shift to green energy and shore up their defenses against climate change impacts. Donor nations must report every two years on their finance levels—current and intended.
Not included in the agreement itself, but in a non-binding “decision” that accompanies it, reference is made to the $100 billion a year that rich countries had pledged to muster by 2020 as “a floor,” which means it can only go up.
The amount must be updated by 2025.
Developed countries, in a report published last month, said they were confident of reaching the 2020 target. Pledges made in 2015 alone would boost public finance (excluding private money) to $67 billion in 2020, they said. Using this cash to “mobilize” private finance, the total could come to between $77 billion and $133 billion.
Rich nations blamed for their historic contribution to carbon pollution balked at the idea of any kind of financial compensation for countries now hit by climate impacts. But the agreement does recognize the need for “averting, minimizing and addressing” losses suffered.