The Paris Agreement

Key to understanding the legal framework for mitigating climate change is understanding the need for “collective action”.

The Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015 and entered into force on the 4th of November, 2016. To date, 185 parties of the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have already ratified the Paris Agreement, which is unprecedented in the history of negotiations under the auspices of the UNFCCC.

Parties to the Paris Agreement have committed to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change” (Article 2).

The Paris Agreement represents a new model for international cooperation, based on fragmented action that reflects national circumstances. Leadership is expected to be taken by Parties with the greatest responsibility and highest capacity.

A “global stocktake”, to take place in 2023 and every 5 years thereafter, will assess collective progress toward meeting the purpose of the Agreement in a comprehensive and facilitative manner. Its outcomes will inform Parties in updating and enhancing their actions and support and enhancing international cooperation.

Access the full text of the Paris Agreement.

More information can be found on the UNFCCC website.

Collective action and citizenship

Climate change requires urgent, coordinated, and consistent action. In the adoption of the Paris Agreement, the Conference of the Parties welcomed efforts of all non-Party stakeholders to address and respond to climate change, including those of civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities.

The Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) [embed link: climateaction.unfccc.int] registers commitments to climate change action taken by companies, cities, subnational regions, and investors to address climate change. It currently includes 9,378 cities, 126 regions, 2,483 companies, 363 investors, 118 civil society organisations and 84 Cooperative initiavies (data from 10 July 2019).

The United Nations ActNow campaign is the United Nations’ global call to individual action on climate change. The campaign is a critical part of the UN’s coordinated effort to raise awareness, ambition, and action for climate change and accelerate implementation of the Paris Agreement. Primarily an online and social media campaign, ActNow will educate and encourage individual actions, mainly by adjusting consumption patterns. By changing our habits and routines, and making choices that have less harmful effects on the environment, we have the power to confront the climate challenge. If you are interested in participating, you can join the movement by visiting https://www.un.org/en/actnow/index.shtml.

Additional resources on this issue include: