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What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

At the COP21 climate conference in Paris in 2015, the “Paris Climate Agreement” – also known as the “Paris Treaty” or the “Paris Agreement” – was adopted. There were 197 signatories to the agreement, with almost all of them ratifying the treaty. The agreement is a legally binding international treaty that forms part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its aim is to limit global warming, preferably to 1.5°C and significantly below 2°C, compared to the pre-industrial level of 1850.

How did the Paris Treaty Come to Exist?

At the UN Climate Conference in Paris, the Paris Agreement (L’Accord de Paris) was adopted as the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which was in force until 2020. Unlike the Kyoto framework, the agreement does not differentiate between industrial countries and developing countries, so for the first time there are common principles that apply to all signatories. The agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is legally binding and came into existence as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In October 2016, a key threshold was met: a minimum of 55 states, collectively responsible for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, ratified the treaty. This meant the agreement could come into force.


What was decided in the Paris Climate Agreement?

The Paris Agreement coined the term “net zero”. The agreement stipulates that the global net greenhouse gas emissions should fall to zero in the second half of the century. For the first time, the signatories agreed a specific target to limit global warming, preferably to 1.5°C and significantly below 2°C, compared to the pre-industrial age.  

To achieve this, all countries that have ratified the agreement set their own reduction targets (Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs). The climate protection efforts are to be revised and strengthened every five years, whereby the goals must reflect the highest possible ambition of each country. The reduction target for each nation should correspond with its changing climate responsibility and capacity for action. In addition to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the Paris Agreement also deals with improving capabilities for adapting to a changing climate. The treaty also emphasises that private and government funding should be directed towards development that produces minimal greenhouse gas emissions.  

In Paris it was also established that signatories, states and other stakeholders may collaborate with one another in order to achieve their climate targets. Mechanisms for collaboration under Article 6 form the legal basis for market-based climate protection, but specific implementation regulations were not adopted until the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021.


Which Countries are Included in the Paris Climate Agreement? 

Almost all countries have ratified the Climate Agreement. During his Presidency, Donald Trump initiated the exit of the USA, but as soon as Joe Biden became President, the USA rejoined. As part of the Paris Agreement, the countries of the European Union have committed to becoming climate-neutral by 2050. Switzerland ratified the Paris Agreement on 6 October, 2017. Its reduction target is minus 50 per cent by 2030 compared to 1990, with an indicative total reduction target of minus 70 to 85 per cent by 2050 compared to 1990. Both targets can be achieved with the use of some overseas emissions reductions.  


Will the Countries Achieve the Targets of the Paris Agreement? 

Many of the countries are currently a long way away from achieving their self-defined climate targets by 2030. In order to achieve the Paris targets, global greenhouse gas neutrality is needed by 2050, which would require consistent decarbonisation. Experts are doubtful that limiting global warming to significantly below two degrees can be achieved if reduction targets are not quickly and dramatically strengthened (Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC). The extent to which negative emissions technologies can help to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement cannot yet be predicted. Without more concerted efforts and more ambitious targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the targets will not be met. 


What are the Next Steps for Climate Protection? 

The 26th Climate Change Conference (COP), where countries were due to set their targets for 2030, was supposed to take place in Glasgow at the end of 2020. The implementation regulations for joint efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were also to be defined there under Article 6. Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the conference did not take place until autumn 2021. 

All the information on COP26 in Glasgow can be found here

Sources:  (Paris agreement)  



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