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The Paris Agreement

A milestone in international climate protection policy

The Paris Agreement is an international legal agreement on climate protection. The initial signatories, a group of 195 countries, have entered into a legally binding, global commitment to tackle climate change, with the primary objective of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement came into force at the end of 2016, after being ratified by the 55 nation states responsible for at least 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Ratification was completed in record time, less than a year after the World Climate Conference held in Paris in December 2015. The European Union and Germany are among the parties who signed the agreement.

Video: Paris Agreement: Prof. Peter Höppe, chairman of the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative, explains the phenomenal significance of the first international treaty on climate protection

The road to Paris: Kyoto and others

The Paris Agreement follows on from the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997. The Kyoto Protocol, which will remain in force until 2020, requires industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement extends this commitment to actively involve all countries in international climate protection policy. Both agreements are based on the “Brundtlandt Report” from 1987, which defines development as sustainable if it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations “to meet their own needs and allows everyone the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations for a better life”.

The 2-degree goal: Limiting global warming

  • The 2-degree goal is central to the Climate Agreement. It requires signatories of the agreement to work to keep the increase in global average temperature to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Scientists estimate that, if this threshold were exceeded, the consequences of climate change would be disastrous for our planet.
  • The 1.5-degree goal: Signatories of the agreement must also pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C by achieving  greenhouse gas neutrality from 2050. This means that the volumes of greenhouse gases generated by human activity must be reabsorbed by natural resources such as the oceans and forests, or neutralised via technological means.

Adjusting to climate change and a more environmentally friendly financial system

The Paris Agreement defines two further main objectives:

  • The 1.5-degree goal: Signatories of the agreement must also pursue efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C by achieving  greenhouse gas neutrality from 2050. This means that the volumes of greenhouse gases generated by human activity must be reabsorbed by natural resources such as the oceans and forests, or neutralised via technological means.
  • Adaptation to climate change: We must improve our ability to cope with changes in our climate and the unavoidable consequences of climate change. As part of this overarching goal, we must ensure that we promote low greenhouse gas development in a way that does not threaten global food supplies.
  • An environmentally friendly financial system: Global finances must also be structured in a way that promotes low greenhouse gas emissions and enables us to build resilience in the face of climate change.

Industrialised countries must provide financial support for poorer nations. From 2020 onwards, the industrialised countries have agreed to provide 100 billion US dollars in funding each year for climate protection. The money will come from public and private investors. In 2025, it will be reviewed whether this sum is sufficient to finance climate change efforts in developing and newly industrialised nations.

Countries set their own contributions

Each nation determines how, and how much, it wants to contribute and reports its ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC) to the UN Climate Change Secretariat. Each country explains:

  • How the objective is to be integrated into national law
  • Why it considers that its reduction objective represents a fair contribution to global climate protection.

The UN Climate Change Secretariat checks whether the reported objectives are sufficient overall to meet the overall 2-degree goal.

From 2020 onwards, each nation must report its latest national climate change objectives every five years. Each new set of objectives must be more ambitious than the previous set. In order to successively raise climate change efforts (the “ambition mechanism”). The individual states sub-divide their climate protection goals into individual sectors as part of their climate protection policy.

Countries have ratified the Climate Change Agreement:

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The objective is to limit the rise in temperature to a maximum of:

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A temperature increase of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius is the best scenario

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Support for climate protection in developing countries

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From 2020 onwards, countries will have to submit more ambitious climate protection goals

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