Guide to the Paris climate agreement decision

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Representatives from 195 countries signed a climate agreement on Saturday at the COP21 United Nations climate summit in Paris.  The resulting Paris climate agreement calls upon both developed and developing nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and establishes a framework for reviewing progress every five years.  This post examines the formal decision to adopt the Paris Agreement taken by the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Under the procedural rules governing the Conference of the Parties, the parties adopted "decision 1/CP.21", the draft of which was proposed by the President of the Conference of the Parties.  Decision 1/CP.21 formally adopts the Paris Agreement -- contained in an annex to the decision -- and creates processes supporting its implementation.

Decision 1/CP.21 emerges from the parliamentary procedures used by the U.N. and the Conference of the Parties.  Written in formal language, the draft decision includes a preamble and six active sections:
  • The preamble recites the agreed-upon facts motivating the Paris agreement, such as, "climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries."
  • Section I, "Adoption," formally adopts the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as contained in the annex, and establish the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement to facilitate its implementation.
  • Section II, "Intended Nationally Determined Contributions," invites participating countries to submit "intended nationally determined contributions" towards achieving the objective of the Convention "as soon as possible and well in advance of the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (November 2016)."
  • Section III, "Decisions to Give Effect to the Agreement," includes sections covering mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity-building, transparency of action and support, global stocktake, facilitating implementation and compliance.
  • Section IV, "Enhanced Action prior to 2020," calls for "the highest possible mitigation efforts in the pre-2020 period," such as "the provision of urgent and adequate finance, technology and capacity-building support by developed country Parties in order to enhance the level of ambition of pre-2020 action by Parties," with a goal of jointly providing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for mitigation and adaptation.
  • Section V, "Non-Party Stakeholders," welcomes interest, participation, and parallel efforts by non-Party Stakeholders, such as "civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities."
  • Section VI, "Administrative and Budgetary Matters," notes potential limits on available financial resources, and urges that parties voluntarily make additional resources available.
Through this COP21 decision, the Conference of Parties adopted the Paris Agreement itself.   In a companion post, I provide a walkthrough of the terms of the Paris Agreement itself.

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