The Paris Agreement is the first legally binding universal global agreement on climate change adopted at the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December 2015. In response to the climate challenge, the agreement recognizes that states have common but differentiated responsibilities, i.e. according to their national capabilities and specificities. The countries most affected by the effects of climate change will be low-lying nations, particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, and developing countries that do not have the resources to adapt to changes in temperature and precipitation. But prosperous nations like the United States are also increasingly vulnerable. In fact, millions of Americans – especially children, the elderly and the poor – are already suffering from the wrath of climate change. Currently, 197 countries – every nation on earth, the last signatory is war-torn Syria – have adopted the Paris Agreement. 179 of them have consolidated their climate proposals with official approval, including, for the time being, the United States. The only major emitters that have yet to formally accede to the agreement are Russia, Turkey and Iran. Funding is essential to support emerging economies and support the transition to carbon-free economies.
The agreement provides that from 2020, $100 billion in public and private funds will have to be mobilized each year to finance projects that allow countries to adapt to the effects of climate change (sea level rise, droughts, etc.) or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These funds should be gradually increased and some developing countries will also be able to become donors on a voluntary basis to help the poorest countries. In addition, countries are working to reach “the global peak in greenhouse gas emissions” as soon as possible. The agreement has been described as an incentive and engine for the sale of fossil fuels.   The initial commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was extended until 2012. This year, at COP18 in Doha, Qatar, delegates agreed to extend the agreement until 2020 (without some industrialized countries withdrawing). They also reaffirmed their commitment made at COP17 in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, to create a new global climate treaty by 2015 that would require all major emitters not included in the Kyoto Protocol, such as China, India and the United States, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The new treaty – which was to become the Paris Agreement – was to completely replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2020.
However, the Paris agreement came into force earlier than expected in November 2016. In an effort to “significantly reduce the risks and effects of climate change,” the agreement calls for the average increase in global temperature over this century to be well below 2 degrees Celsius, while continuing efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. It also calls on countries to commit as quickly as possible to comparing global greenhouse gas emissions and to become carbon neutral by the second half of this century. To achieve these goals, 186 countries – responsible for more than 90% of global emissions – presented CO2 reduction targets prior to the Paris conference, known as “determined national contributions” (INDC). These targets set out the commitments made by each country to reduce emissions until 2025 or 2030, including macroeconomic targets for co2 reduction and individual commitments of some 2,250 cities and 2,025 companies.