Student Energy News

NEWS: The Paris Climate Change Agreement - Explained

NEWS: The Paris Climate Change Agreement - Explained

You may have seen the Paris Climate Change Agreement (or COP21) discussed a lot in the news lately, and not necessarily for the best reasons. In this article we are going to explain what exactly the Paris Climate Change Agreement was is, what took place, and what has happened since.

What is the Paris Climate Change Agreement?

The Paris Climate Change Agreement (or COP21) was an international summit held in Paris in December 2015, to try and decide a global strategy for combatting climate change. Though many of these had been held before, Paris was significant because a legally binding deal was agreed upon and set as a goal. 195 countries partook in the agreement, which limited increases in global warming to well below 2°C and for many was seen as the end of the fossil fuels era. Governments also agreed to come together every 5 years to set more ambitious targets as required by science; to report to each other and the public on how well they are doing to implement their targets; and to track progress towards the long-term goal through a robust transparency and accountability system.

Almost a year on, what has happened?

Though these are good targets, they are not yet enforced as each country needs to ratify the commitment. The agreement will take effect when 55 countries representing at least 55% of global emissions have joined, and currently the total stands at 60 countries accounting for 48%. Though this is a promising and unprecedentedly quick result compared the seven years it took for the Kyoto protocol of 1997 to come into effect, some people have criticised the agreement for promising too much in too short a space of time. Paul Bodnar, writing for the Huffington Post, said that ‘considering that global emissions are still rising, climate neutrality before 2100 implies a very ambitious decarbonisation slope’. Global warming is now above pre-industrial levels and shows no immediate sign of decreasing. In order to keep to the outlines of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, countries need to ratify the Agreement and solidify it in their law, and fast, and pressure is rising on global powers such as the EU and the UK.

Paris Climate Change Agreement in the UK

The problem is that the UK hasn’t yet ratified the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and many are worried Brexit has had a detrimental effect on the UK’s commitment to the agreement, by outshining its importance and need for immediacy. Greenpeace are urging Theresa May to ratify the agreement through an online petition, to ensure the agreement means more than ‘lofty words’. The hesitation from Britain, and the EU, to ratify the agreement has also caused people concern over the USA’s future commitment to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Donald Trump, famously a climate change sceptic, has already confirmed he would withdraw from the agreement if elected, and he would face much heavier opposition about withdrawal if leading world powers, such as Britain and the EU, were legally committed to the agreement.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement the first global strategy to combat climate change and the single most important act on climate change in our lifetime. However, without the strong support and co-operation of global powers, the future success of the Paris Climate Change Agreement is uncertain.

Here is a short video explaining the basic idea of the Paris Climate Change Agreement: