The Paris Agreement

In 2015, world leaders gathered in Paris for COP21, i.e. the 21st edition of the United Nations’ annual climate conference. It was agreed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions globally as soon as possible and the so-called Paris Agreement was signed. The agreement is based on the United Nations’ Climate Convention, the UNFCCC, which entered into force in 2016 following ratification by a majority of the world’s nations. Today, a total of 192 States have ratified the Paris Agreement.

Under the Paris Agreement, the signatories have undertaken to ensure that the global rise in temperature is kept well under 2 degrees Celsius in comparison with pre-industrial levels, as well as endeavouring to limit the rise in temperature to 1.5 degrees. In order to realise these goals, every State needs to provide a national climate plan to the United Nations, which is to be updated every five years with even more ambitious goals and measures. However, it is up to each individual State to determine their level of ambition. 

The EU has adopted a common plan for its Member States. The latest plan from 2020 establishes that the EU is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% until 2030 compared to the levels of 1990, as well as reach total climate neutrality no later than 2050. These goals have been made binding  through the so-called European Climate Law (Regulation 2021/1119).[1]

The EU Member States are obliged to work towards fulfilling the EU climate plan. Sweden has set its own (even more ambitious) goal to not have any net greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 the latest, and to achieve negative emissions thereafter. However, many States’ climate plans have goals that are lower than those set out in the EU plan. Unfortunately, even if each State were to reach the goals that it has set itself, this would not keep the rise in global temperature below two degrees.

Furthermore, the Paris Agreement provides that States may co-operate by transferring mitigation outcomes between each other, i.e. so-called emissions trading. The EU has set up a system for emissions trading, the EU ETS, under which a limit is set for how much carbon dioxide companies in certain sectors in the EU may emit. The companies concerned must either purchase or be allocated emission rights. If a company emits more carbon dioxide than it has a right to (i.e. more than it has emission rights for) it will be penalised, whereas if the company emits less it can save its emission rights or sell them.

According to the Paris Agreement, the richer States shall also provide economic assistance for climate action in developing countries. The richer States have therefore jointly agreed to donate a total of USD 100 billion per year from 2020 to 2025. However, this goal was most likely not reached for the year 2020 and there is a risk that it will not be reached for 2021 either. In 2019, a total of USD 80 billion was donated.

The States have also agreed to report, to each other as well as the general public, their greenhouse gas emissions and the measures which are taken in order to reach the climate goals in accordance with the Paris Agreement. In order to determine the reporting rules and the further implementation of the Paris Agreement, a rule book was created in 2018 at COP24 in Katowice. However, the rule book is not complete since  several important aspects of its implementation have not yet been agreed on.

You will find the Paris Agreement here.

[1] Regulation (EU) 2021/1119 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 June 2021 establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality and amending Regulations (EC) No 401/2009 and (EU) 2018/1999 (‘European Climate Law’), EUT L 243, 9.7.2021, s. 1–17.