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  • Writer's pictureKartik Verma

Climate agreements - Paris agreement, Kyoto protocol and COP

Updated: May 26, 2022

There is a lot happening in the world of climate change right now with COP26 kicking off this Sunday - Oct 31st. We will try and cover all the exciting new announcements by countries and companies and keep you posted. For today, we take a trip down memory lane and look at past climate agreements.

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What to expect today:

What is COP26?

Image Source: BBC

If you have been following the news lately, you would have heard that there is an important climate summit happening in Glasgow called ‘COP26’. So what is it?

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’. This year will be the 26th annual summit – giving it the name COP26. With the UK as President, COP26 takes place in Glasgow. (The Paris agreement was in COP21)

What are the goals of COP26?

There are 4 main goals that countries are planning to achieve:

  • Secure global net zero by mid-century and keep 1.5 degrees within reach - Countries are being asked to come up with aggressive 2030 targets to achieve net-zero goals by 2050

  • Adapt to protect communities and natural habitats - enable and encourage countries affected by climate change to protect and restore ecosystems, build defences, put warning systems in place and make infrastructure and agriculture more resilient to avoid loss of homes, livelihoods and lives. (In the US alone in 2021 - 1 in 3 households were affected by climate change related activity)

  • Mobilise finance - developed countries must make good on their promise to mobilise at least $100bn in climate finance per year for developing countries (the highest all the developed countries governments combined contributed was in 2019 and they contributed $63bn. For reference, US’ defense budget for FY 21 was $705bn)

  • Work together to deliver - finalise the Paris Rulebook (the detailed rules that make the Paris Agreement operational) and encourage collaboration between governments, businesses and civil society

Paris agreement and Kyoto protocol

Image Source: Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

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.

Kyoto Protocol

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.

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.

Climate Action Tracker

Image Source: Climate Action Tracker

The Climate Action Tracker is an independent scientific analysis that tracks government climate action and measures it against the globally agreed Paris Agreement aim of "holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C." A collaboration of two organisations, Climate Analytics and New Climate Institute, the CAT has been providing this independent analysis to policymakers since 2009.

CAT currently tracks 39 countries and the EU, covering all the biggest emitters and a representative sample of smaller emitters covering about 80% of global emissions and approximately 70% of global population. The national actions it tracks are:

  • Effect of climate policies and actions on emissions

  • Impacts of pledges, targets and NDCs

  • Whether a government is doing its “fair share” compared with others towards the global effort to limit warming consistent with the Paris Agreement

Of the 39 countries tracked:

  • 1 country - Gambia - is in line with the 1.5°C goal

  • 7 countries have almost sufficient actions to meet the 1.5°C goal

  • 31 countries have insufficient policies and taken insufficient actions to meet the 1.5°C goal

Do check out this interactive dashboard tracking each country's climate actions (hopefully it will be updated after COP26).

Recommendations from the team

  • Bloomberg - Picking the precise moments when the world’s leaders had unmissable evidence of climate change (Instagram post)

  • CNBC - Can a climate change conference save the world? (9 min video)

  • NPR - 4 charts that show why the stakes are so high at COP26 (1 min read)

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