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COP21: What Does the Paris Agreement Do - And Not Do?

EmmamHowe MA, United States 0 Ratings 13 Discussions 8 Group posts

Posted by: EmmamHowe // Marketing/Green Policy Development

Thanks to expansive and comprehensive media coverage, millions of people have heard or seen the words “COP21” or the “Paris Agreement” at some point in the past year, and millions more people are aware of the dangers of climate change and our need to limit carbon emissions below current and future dangerous levels. Yet many people may be wondering “what exactly IS the Paris Agreement?” or “what did the COP21 actually DO?

The talks in Paris were the 21st meeting of a series of conferences between 197 UN member nations discussing potential resolutions to climate change. The aim of the Paris Conference was to devise a global response to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, which threaten to heighten the effects of climate change and wipe out the human presence in certain areas of the world. The agreement establishes, for the first time, a goal preventing the globe from warming to 1.5°C to deter the worst effects of climate change. During the anticipated signing of the deal, it was stated that the agreement would only become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries—together representing 55% of global greenhouse emissions. And, on Earth Day, April 22nd 2016, 174 countries signed the agreement at the UN headquarters in New York, beginning the process to adopt the framework within their own legal systems.

The COP21 also attempts to smooth over the disparity between developed and developing countries, which has been a prevalent issue throughout climate policy efforts. The deal increases transparency between nations by providing a common framework, committing all parties involved to implement their best emission cut strategies and to strengthen these commitments in the following years. This includes, for the first time, five-year obligations that require all parties to report regularly on their emissions and implementation efforts, emphasizing that the parties must to also undergo international review every five years. But, if you don't want to read the full agreement, here is a handy summary of what was agreed to in Paris and what the deal included and did not include:

Temperature: The nations decided they needed to keep “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels” in order to mitigate the most disastrous effects of climate change

Forests: Nations are being encouraged to create “policy approaches and positive incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries”

Who’s Paying? The deal encourages Developed country Parties “to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels, noting the significant role of public funds” as a means to support developing countries in their transition over to clean energy

Transparency: To build trust and further incentive for collaboration “an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account Parties’ different capacities and builds upon collective experience is hereby established”

No Provision for Total Greenhouse Gas Neutrality: The deal does not call for total use of renewable sources
of energy and negation of non renewable sources, but rather seeks “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century”

Loss and Damage: This is the first major international deal to incorporate a clause about the “loss and damage” countries will suffer from climate change--potentially adding greater incentive for countries recognize the devastating effects of anthropogenic climate change

BIG ONE: Legally Required Five Year Reports: This provision legally binds every Party to “communicate a nationally determined contribution every five years” which will encourage nations to reduce emissions in order to hold them accountable to making substantial progress in targeting climate change

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