The Paris Agreement, signed by 196 countries in 2015, is a milestone international climate change treaty. But what exactly was agreed upon, and what has been done since?
At its core, the Paris Agreement aims to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with a stretch goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. To accomplish this, countries pledged to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and regularly report their progress.
One key aspect of the agreement is the concept of nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Each country sets its own targets for reducing emissions and submits them to the United Nations. These targets are not legally binding, but the idea is that the transparency and accountability of reporting will encourage countries to follow through on their commitments.
Another important element of the Paris Agreement is the commitment to provide financial support to developing countries to help them transition to cleaner energy sources and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Developed countries pledged to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance by 2020, although progress has been slow and there is still a significant funding gap.
Since the Paris Agreement was signed, some progress has been made. The number of countries ratifying the treaty has steadily increased, with all major emitting countries on board. Many countries have also updated their NDCs with more ambitious targets.
However, overall emissions are still increasing, and many countries are falling short of their commitments. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a major impact on climate action, with many countries focusing on economic recovery rather than climate measures.
There is no doubt that the Paris Agreement was a significant step forward in global climate action. But as we approach the crucial COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, there is much more work to be done to turn pledges into real emissions reductions and secure a sustainable future for the planet.