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Paris Climate Agreement: summary of the key points agreed

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Read our very useful summary of the key points agreed upon at the recent Paris Summit including the main positive and negative outcomes.


1. Article 2 -1.5C Limit: Governments have agreed to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. This will be done in a context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

a. Issue: this is very positive as it is a significant drop in the 2C agreed at Copenhagen. However, there are no measures in place to achieve the 1.5C aspiration.


2. Throughout the Paris Text – Mitigation: Parties are bound to prepare and regularly update pledges to curb emissions.

a. Issue: 180 countries had submitted INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions). INDCS are recognised under the agreement, but are not legally binding. The pledges submitted are not sufficient to curb 2C rise. Currently the INDCs will lead to a 2.7C rise or higher.

b. These emissions are expected to be reduced over time. The decision text “invites” countries to write long-term low-
emissions strategies by 2020, while the legal agreement says they should “strive” to do this.

c. Issue also with transparency (see below) on national implementation which aims to be “facilitative, non-intransitive and non-punitive” and respectful of national sovereignty.


3. Article 4Global Goal: Aim to peak in emissions as soon as possible and a long term global goal for net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

a. Countries can use ‘sinks’ such as forests to do this.

b. Developed countries will take the lead but developing are also required to eventually move to emissions peaking and

c. The global goal will be reached on the basis of equity and in a context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

d. Issue: UN IPCC say net zero emissions must be achieved by 2070 to avoid dangerous warming.


4. Article 14 – Stocktake clause: Introduction of a review mechanism to take stock of country efforts every five years. This
will inform the efforts of future commitments and aims to increase pledges. Each pledge must be ‘a progression’ and ‘as
ambitious as possible’

a. Facilitative dialogue to develop these pledges will begin in 2018. These will inform efforts of future commitments.

b. Countries which have submitted targets for 2025 are urged to come back in 2020 with new targets, while those with 2030 targets are encourages to ‘communicate or update’ them. This process will be repeated every five years, with the first global stocktake under the new Paris deal occurring in 2023.

c.Issue: There is no penalty for countries that miss their emissions targets, but the aim is for transparency rules to encourage countries to do what they say they will do.


5. Article 8 – Loss and Damage Mechanism: Introduction of a mechanism to recognise and address the financial losses
vulnerable countries face from climate change. This article is now on par with political statements of mitigation and

a. Issue: The US long opposed this as they feared it would lead to compensation claims. To stop this a footnote clause was introduced to state that loss and damage “does not involve or provide basis for any liability or compensation”


6. Article 9 – Finance: Legal obligation on developed countries to continue to provide climate finance to help developing
countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy. Other countries can provide support voluntarily.

a.  More flexible decision texts (outside the legally binding agreement) state that the current flow of $100bn a year is
‘intend[ed] to continue’ beyond 2020. By 2025 there are aims to increase this beyond ‘a floor’ of €100billion a year through         a collective agreement.

b. The nature and purpose of this finance isn’t clear, this leaves space for it to be fulfilled by private finance. There are
worries that finance will be redirected from existing aid budgets.


7. Article 13 – Transparency: A “facilitative, non-intransitive and non-punitive” system of review will track countries progress.

a. Issue: The rules on reporting are flexible, there is recognition of the difficulties developing countries face in gathering this
information, however, all countries must report regularly. This is especially important for the US and EU who want to keep
an eye on China and avoid ‘carbon leakage’.


8. Article 7 – Adaptation: The deal establishes a “global goal” on adaptation of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening
resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change”. Countries are bound to engage in adaptation planning that must be
submitted and updated periodically.


9. Article 22Entry into Force: The deal will enter into force once 55 parties, covering 55% of global emissions have signed

Negotiations for the Paris agreement were particularly tense as it had to be carefully crafted to avoid specification as a treaty which would require approval from two-thirds of the US Senate. The Senate is currently dominated by Republicans hostile to action on climate.

The former Kyoto Protocol focused on ensuring legally binding emissions reductions from developed countries alone. This led to the US refusal to take part, a significant loss for the Protocol. For the Paris agreement, the US was adamant that the climate agreement be universal in securing voluntary commitments from every country.


  • Universal adoption. UN has 193 members, 195 countries accepted the agreement.
  • Unmistakeable intention of the international community to end reliance on fossil-fuels shown by a long-term emissions reduction goal of zero emissions by the second half of this century. This will affect global investment patterns and shift funding from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
  • Five year review cycle of all INDCS – it’s been 20 years since the last targets were set in Kyoto.
  • Measures to ensure transparency – these ensure it’s tougher to manipulate data and will ensure all players feel they have to look over their shoulder – there are no outliers.
  • Creates a vision statement for the globe. Creates a new, universal vocabulary with bold objectives that will influence international relations and, therefore, domestic actions.


  • Current INDCs mean a 2.7C rise in global temperatures.
  • The text uses ‘strategic ambiguity’ in many places to avoid being legally binding, a feature which would require the Agreement’s approval from the US Senate. Emissions targets for individual countries are voluntary, however countries are legally bound to report on these emissions.
  • Enforcement may become a problem into the future. For example, the Article 15 mechanism to ensure implementation and compliance is to be specifically “non-adversarial and non-punitive” .
  • Very vague – We need plans as to HOW we will move to zero emissions and an enforceable roadmap to get there. There is no set date for a peak in emissions, or for the achievement of carbon neutrality. These targets are binding at global level but there is nothing binding for countries involved.
  • An important “no-backsliding clause” will force all countries to scale up their ambitions and commitments through the use of regular stocktakes and reviews.

For more information contact the authors:

Sinead Mercier, Climate Change Consultant


Philip Lee, Partner