Climate Change Agreement Timeline

Climate activists are preparing for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) which begins in Madrid on Monday. The Paris Agreement has an “upward” structure unlike most international environmental treaties, which are “top down”, characterized by internationally defined standards and objectives that states must implement. [32] Unlike its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, which sets legal commitment targets, the Paris Agreement, which focuses on consensual training, allows for voluntary and national objectives. [33] Specific climate targets are therefore politically promoted and not legally binding. Only the processes governing reporting and revision of these objectives are imposed by international law. This structure is particularly noteworthy for the United States – in the absence of legal mitigation or funding objectives, the agreement is seen as an “executive agreement, not a treaty.” Since the 1992 UNFCCC treaty was approved by the Senate, this new agreement does not require further legislation from Congress for it to enter into force. [33] In order to “significantly reduce the risks and effects of climate change,” the agreement calls for the average increase in global temperature over this century to be well below 2 degrees Celsius, while continuing efforts to limit the increase in temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also calls on countries to commit as quickly as possible to comparing global greenhouse gas emissions and to become carbon neutral by the second half of this century. To achieve these goals, 186 countries – responsible for more than 90% of global emissions – presented CO2 reduction targets prior to the Paris conference, known as “determined national contributions” (INDC).

These targets set out the commitments made by each country to reduce emissions until 2025 or 2030, including macroeconomic targets for co2 reduction and individual commitments of some 2,250 cities and 2,025 companies. Although both the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement intend to combat climate change, there are significant differences between them. InDCs become CNDs – nationally determined contributions – as soon as a country formally adheres to the agreement. There are no specific requirements as to how or how many countries should reduce emissions, but there were political expectations about the nature and rigour of the targets set by different countries.

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