What's So Special about the Paris Agreement?

     On December 12, 2015, the world’s first universal climate agreement was adopted at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The Paris Climate Agreement sets ambitious Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission goals for both developed and developing countries. The main goal for this 31-page document is to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, largely considered to be climate change’s “magic number” in having disastrous environmental consequences.

COP21 in Paris, France on December 12, 2015

     Besides mitigating climate change, the Paris agreement states for developed countries to give $100 billion USD to developing countries on an annual basis so they have opportunities to reduce emissions and combat climate change. In addition, participating countries must document and publish their emission targets (which must be higher than previous targets). Another goal set out in the Paris agreement is for the world to be carbon-neutral by 2050 (or before 2100). This means limiting our GHG emissions as much as we possibly can.

     As some of you may remember, the Kyoto Protocol was a similar agreement made in December 1997 which included more than 150 countries. However, the protocol took more than 7 years for it to be signed and ratified to be put into effect. In 2001, the U.S. rejected the Kyoto Protocol while Canada initially signed but withdrew in 2011.

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Canadian PM Jean-Chretien signing The Kyoto Protocol in 1997

     What sets the Paris agreement apart from The Kyoto Protocol is its inclusion of developing countries to lower their GHG emissions. The Paris agreement’s increased transparency and coherency will, hopefully, make it successful in mitigating climate change effects and encouraging sustainability and environmental health.

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