Words Bassam Alkantar

In December 2015, an agreement on climate change was reached in Paris, thanks to the skillfulness of French diplomacy. The Climate Agreement marked a watershed moment in taking action on climate change. Adopted by 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last December in Paris, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

Six years earlier, countries had bitterly walked away from global climate talks in Copenhagen without a deal. The decision to reassemble in Paris to try again at getting almost 200 countries to sign a pact on cutting carbon emissions was a gamble: Another collapse could have ended the world’s ability to forge a common approach to dealing with climate change.


Goals of the Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change sets the following goals: keeping global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; trying to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels; and enhancing global adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience, and reducing vulnerability to climate change.

The Agreement creates two five-year cycles. One cycle is for parties to submit nationally determined contributions (NDCs), with each successive contribution representing a progression from the previous contribution, reflecting common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances.

Parties with a 10-year intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) timeframe are requested to communicate or update these contributions. The second cycle is a global stocktaking of collective efforts, beginning in 2023, following a facilitative dialogue in 2018. All parties are to report using a common transparency framework, with support provided for developing countries to fulfill their reporting obligations.


Entering into force

The threshold for entry into force is 55 country ratifications accounting for at least 55 percent of global GHG emissions. The Paris Agreement will enter into force 30 days after 55 countries, representing 55 percent of global emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the Secretary-General. The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement on September 21, at a special event hosted by the United Nations. Several large emitting countries, which had not yet completed their domestic approval processes in time for the event, also announced that they were committed to joining the agreement this year.

One of the two thresholds for entry into force has now been met. There are now 60 countries that have joined the agreement—five more than the required 55 needed. These countries represent 48 percent of global emissions, just shy of the 55 percent needed for entry into force.


In addition, 14 countries, representing 12.58 percent of emissions, committed to joining the agreement in 2016, virtually assuring that the Agreement will enter into force this year.

In early September, the world’s two largest emitters, China and the United States, joined the Agreement, providing considerable impetus for other countries to quickly complete their domestic ratification or approval processes.

Thirty-one countries  have deposited their instruments of ratification including: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Dominica, Ghana, Guinea, Honduras, Iceland, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Senegal, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Tonga, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, and Vanuatu. Fourteen countries announced their commitment to join the Agreement in 2016, including: Austria, Australia, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, European Union, France, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Poland, and the Republic of Korea.