The Paris Agreement: a path and hopes

"The best possible deal given the reality of today's world"

In December 2015 during COP21, a climate change agreement was, for the first time, signed by all States - the Paris Agreement. Bettina Laville discusses the content of the agreement and its future.

"The Paris Agreement is the result of a long process, which began with the 1992 Framework Convention. What changed during COP21 was that all the States, both developed and developing countries, agreed to sign an agreement - a universal agreement.

The Agreement commits every country to taking steps to keep the global temperature increase to below 2°C by 2100. But in order to be ratified by all the States, the Agreement had to be broad as possible in order to be acceptable to those countries most reluctant to give up polluting forms of energy.

In this respect, the refusal of the US Congress to ratify the 1997 Kyoto Protocol provides an edifying precedent. The Agreement is in two parts: a Treaty bringing together the binding commitments - although no sanctions have been included - and the COP Decision that covers all the less consensual measures. Among them, the obligation to finance, to the tune of $100 billion, a fund to help developing countries put in place adaptation and resiliency solutions – one of the major challenges for COP 21.
I think it is a great disappointment that the Treaty does not mention the role of civil society: businesses, NGOs, local authorities, etc.

The Agreement also marks a success for French diplomacy, which throughout 2015 optimistically and determinedly focused on the aims set for COP21 . A large amount of work was undertaken in order to obtain a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in each country - the famous national contributions. These constitute a real revolution in some countries... But most of the work still has to be done: using a common basis, a methodology for assessing each national contribution to the goal of staying under the limit of +2°C by 2100 has to be established. No binding rendezvous was fixed prior to 2023, i.e. in 8 years: it will be very late in terms of assessing whether we are on track to achieve the target.

Guyan Mestras

In addition, the scientific community is in agreement in saying that the 2015-2020 period is crucial. And no short-term target figure has been included in the Treaty. Because of the national political agenda in many countries, 2016 is likely to be a lost year. Which is why I hope that the publication of the IPCC report in 2018 on the consequences of global warming above 1.5°C will produce a strong reaction.

Finally, the successive natural disasters experienced over recent years and the temperature peaks recorded no so long ago have raised the awareness of the global population and the States to the urgency of the situation. Global warming is now ranked among the topics of global concern. The Paris Agreement is a reasonable agreement. Whether it is also an historic one – only time will tell."