Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is the most recent and significant of a series of landmark international treaties to combat climate change.

On Dec. 12, 2015, 197 parties (the European Union is considered a single bloc) at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) adopted the Paris Agreement – a legally binding international treaty on climate change. The agreement aims to limit manmade global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, if not 1.5 C, compared with pre-industrial levels.

The agreement requires signatories to bring about economic and social transformation based on the best available science with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Every five years, signatories are expected to make their climate actions more ambitious and submit their plans to do so, as well as temperature-rise resilience measures, in what are known as nationally determined contributions, or NBCs. 

The first five-year cycle ended in 2020. All 197 parties were supposed to have submitted their more ambitious commitments over 2015. Only 45 parties managed to do so, and this group did not include the U.S., India or China. Many of the 45 did not increase their commitments over their original pledges made in 2015.

According to the UN Environment Program, new and updated climate commitments fall short of the Paris Agreement’s goals and will result in a global temperature rise of at least 2.7 C this century.