2015 International Climate Agreement

In 2015 the International Climate Change Agreement or the ‘Paris Agreement’ was signed as a special agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Photograph of world leaders at summit

The agreement dealt mostly with greenhouse gases, emissions mitigation, finance arrangements and adaption and would come into place in 2020.

The Agreement was negotiated by 196 parties and was agreed on 12 December 2015.

Main aims:

  • To strengthen the global response to threats caused by climate change.
  • To aim to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees C but ideally less than 1.5 degrees.
  • To strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.
  • To put in place appropriate financial flows and new technology frameworks that would help to support developing and vulnerable countries (mitigation and adaption).
Illustration showing the key points of the Paris climate agreement

Positives of the Paris Agreement

  • First time that all governments have agreed to try to limit global warming.
  • First time that governments around the world have agreed to aim to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
  • The aim to limit global warming to ‘well below 2 degrees and striving for 1.5 degrees C’ is a stretch that has never been seen before and shows that countries are trying to reduce the impact of global warming around the world.
  • Some countries (like France) have taken immediate action and have stated an intent to ban all petrol and diesel engine cars by 2040.
  • Governments have agreed to review all of their climate commitments every 5 years.
  • Many of the world’s biggest polluters agreed to make big reductions in their emissions. China who have produced 24% of all world carbon have promised to reduce emissions by 60% from 2005 levels. The EU have also pledged a 40% reduction in domestic emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels. This is a really ambitious target but many of the EU countries are well on their way to achieving this.

Negatives of the Paris Agreement

  • The Paris Agreement follows 36 years of climate meetings where very little progress was made. Since the 1990 Kyoto climate meeting – global emissions have increased by 67%.
  • The Paris Agreement is non-binding – this means that there are no consequences for any country that fails to achieve the agreed targets.
  • Many environmental organisations (like Greenpeace) find the 1.5°C to 2.0°C global warming limit as ‘delusional’. They argue that the world is already two-thirds of the way towards that target and increasing at over 2% each year.
  • Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change research has noted that, ‘the combined pledges in the agreement will results in a 4-6°C temperature increase, a 40-50% decline in agriculture, more droughts and violent storms, sea rise and flooding.’
  • The pledges do not come into effect until 2020 – so the nations have committed themselves to 5 years of doing nothing.
  • Some economists have argued that the Paris conference really was just a signal that the fossil fuel era was coming to an end and that the era of renewable energy was just beginning.
  • Although the US initially agreed to sign the Agreement and have pledged to reduce their domestic emissions by 26% from 2005 levels, the newly-elected President Trump has withdrawn the USA from the Agreement.
  • Renowned climate change scientist James Hansen has noted, ‘It’s just worthless. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.’
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