COP: The Successes and Failures of the Paris Agreement (Part 3) 

By Amy Denton, assistant editor of GLOBUS

Now that you’ve heard all about the Kyoto Protocol which some say paved the way for the Paris Agreement, let us explore the successes and failures of one of history’s most significant international environmental accords. But first, what is the Paris Agreement? 

The aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to below 2℃, but preferably to 1.5℃. It was the first ever universal agreement that legally binded nearly 190 countries to limiting climate change and was adopted in December 2015The key elements of the agreement were set out as: mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions); transparency and global stocktake (countries must re-assess their progress every 5 years and report back to each other); adaptation (developed countries must provide support for developing countries to adapt); loss and damage (countries must recognise the importance of minimising and addressing the loss and damage caused by climate change and must enhance their understanding and action in implementing warning systems and emergency preparedness); recognising the role of cities, regions and local authorities in addressing climate change; support for other countries.  

The commitments that were outlined by the Paris Agreement are extensive compared to previous accords and have made it known as a success on the international stage. It has quasi-complete global support and provides much needed international recognition regarding the dangers of climate change and what we must do to combat them. There is also an emphasis on developed countries who can afford it to make the transition to renewable energy sources, as developed countries account for approximately 63% of greenhouse gas emissions, therefore, making the switch would in theory lead to a significant drop in emissions worldwide.    

If implemented perfectly, the agreement would also ensure that countries were held accountable for reaching their targets. However, there is a significant lack of accountability and repercussions for countries failing to meet their targets. As a result, those in the agreement can become free-riders, enjoying the benefits of keeping global temperature increase to a minimum, without making any changes themselves. This is a flaw in the agreement: it allows countries to ignore their pledges since no punishments will incur should they not be met. In order for the agreement to be totally successful, this would have to be addressed. Another issue is that experts are now saying that even if countries were to meet their current pledges, it may not be enough to limit the average global temperature increase to 1.5°C or even 2°C.  

Therefore, it seems to be that although the Paris Agreement was an extremely positive step in the right direction, the current pledges alone will not be enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. Countries must make their pledges more ambitious, and stick to them, or other protocols may need to be put in place. The next article in the series will explore the WCNF, which is Warwick University’s own climate negotiating forum – you don’t want to miss it! 

Header Image by Mika Baumeister, via unsplash 

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