The Paris Agreement on climate change at a glance

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By Imelda Visaya-Abano

 

ON Wednesday (July 20), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders from all countries to attend a special event at the UN headquarters in New York on September 21 to secure early entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

 

The Paris pact will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting to 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified the agreement.

 

While the Paris Agreement was overwhelmingly adopted by 195 countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last December 2015, 175 countries formally signed the Agreement on April 22, 2016. So far, 19 countries have ratified the accord, mostly from small island countries.

 

“ I urge you to accelerate your country’s domestic process for ratification of the Agreement this year,” Mr Ban said in a statement. “ Doing so will create incentives for early implementation of nationally determined contributions and build support within markets and societies for increased climate ambition.”

 

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But what has actually been agreed under the Paris accord? Here are the key elements of the deal.

 

A long-term goal to limit global warming to ‘well below 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible’

The agreement calls for global emissions to peak “as soon as possible”, and for a balance to be achieved between the rate of greenhouse gas emissions and the removal of these gases from the atmosphere by some time between 2050 and 2100.

 

National pledges to curb carbon emissions

Months before the Paris climate conference started, about 185 countries, covering more than 90 percent of global emissions, had submitted their so-called ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ or INDCs – these are voluntary pledges on how individual countries plan to limit their emissions during the 2020s. The pledges, however, are not legally-binding.

 

The pledges and the 2 degrees Celsius target

The targets are not yet enough to limit warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. A key part of the pact asks countries to convene before 2020 and to revisit the pledges made and then to strengthen their pledges every five years thereafter.

 

Money

Under the agreement, developed countries will need to provide financial assistance to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change. Developed countries are obliged to mobilize US$100 billion a year in climate finance from 2020.

 

Legality of the Agreement

The Paris Agreement is legally binding, but some specific details, such as the amount of climate finance involved, are not. Finance is one of the sticky points during the climate talks.

 

Loss and damage

The agreement includes ‘loss and damage’, a mechanism for addressing the financial losses vulnerable countries face from climate impacts such as extreme weather. It, however, clarified that ‘loss and damage’ does not involve liability or compensation.

Imelda Abano
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Imelda Abano

Editor-in-Chief at Philippine EnviroNews
--Founder and President of the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists;
--Asian Developmental Journalist of the Year, 2009
-- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) media fellow 2008-2014
-- Council of Leaders of the US-based Earth Journalism Network;
--Board of Director of the US-based Society of Environmental Journalists
Imelda Abano
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