The Paris agreement was the first concrete step towards climate action ratified by 196 parties at the UN. The agreement was ratified to become an international treaty with the gal to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees and preferably less than 1.5 degrees. The Paris Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
A bit of history - COP conferences
For nearly three decades the UN has been bringing together almost every country on earth for global climate summits – called COPs – which stands for ‘Conference of the Parties’. 2022 was the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK as President, COP26 took place in Glasgow.
The first COP conference was actually held in ‘95 in Berlin. Kyoto Protocol - a significant landmark agreement at the time was held in ‘97 and was COP3. The famous Paris Agreement was held in ‘15 and was COP 21.
The Kyoto Protocol (COP3) was an international treaty that committed state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the scientific consensus that one, global warming is occurring and two, that human-made CO2 emissions are driving it. The Kyoto protocol defined the list of gases which we would define as greenhouse gases; six were identified initially and a seventh was later added in the Doha agreement (COP18). The Kyoto Protocol also laid the framework for creating, certifying and trading carbon credits which are still used today. In 2015, the Kyoto Protocol was replaced by the Paris agreement.
It was during the COP21 conference in Paris that for the first time ever, something momentous happened:
Every country agreed to work together to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees, to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to make money available to deliver on these aims.
Under the Paris Agreement, countries committed to bring forward national plans setting out how much they would reduce their emissions – known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’. They agreed that every five years they would come back with an updated plan that would reflect their highest possible ambition at that time. That’s why COP26 is an important conference since countries are expected to share their updated plans during this conference.
Check out this really cool Instagram post by Bloomberg Green picking out the precise moments when world’s leaders had unmissable evidence of climate change.
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Learn more about carbon credits - the framework for which was defined in COP3 - famously known as the Kyoto protocol