Written by: Johnathan Schweitzer
On Saturday the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference came to a conclusion in Paris, France with 195 countries approving an historic agreement that is aimed at combating climate change.
The primary objective of the conference was to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 °F) while driving efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.
The participating countries pledged to reduce their carbon output “as soon as possible” while working to keep global warming rise to below 2 degrees Celsius.
The historic agreement won’t take effect until 2020 and becomes legally binding if at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions become a party and ratify the deal between April 22, 2016 (Earth Day) and April 21, 2017.
“We have entered a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Countries will be required to reconvene every five years beginning in 2020 and submit new plans, called nationally determined contributions (NDCs), that strengthens their emissions cuts.
Countries will also be expected to engage in a process on mitigation opportunities, focus on adaptation opportunities, and present a clear roadmap for increasing climate financing to $100 billion by 2020.
Before 2025 countries will have to re-establish a new financing goal from the $ 100 billion floor.
The agreement underwrites “adequate support” to developing nations and sets a global goal to significantly strengthen adaptation to climate change with support and international cooperation.
Unlike the 1997 Kyoto protocol, there was no detailed timeline or defined country by country goals for lowering emissions in the final version of the 12 page Paris Agreement.
However, the final agreement includes a “global stocktake” starting in 2023 that occurs every 5 years to assess the collective progress towards the goals of the agreement.
The agreement also includes a compliance mechanism, run by a committee of experts that operates in a non-punitive way.