The Paris Agreement sets crucial goals: to limit global temperature increase, and specific goals in three areas mitigation, adaptation and finance. The long-term goal for mitigation is 2 °C strengthening to 1.5 °C which guides the Agreement. There is a global goal adaptation which includes increasing adaptive capacity and resilience; and a finance goal to increase post 2020 from $100 billion per year. Finance flows will have to balance adaptation and mitigation.
The Paris Agreement fulfilled the Durban promise of a regime applicable to all under the Convention. We have moved beyond a bifurcated world of two clear groups, the developed and developing countries. Yet Paris reflects differentiation, acknowledging that the world is not homogenous either. It expresses differences in more nuanced ways: in general, in mitigation and finance.
The Paris Agreement encodes a more bottom-up approach. If Kyotos targets and time-tables was top-down, a defining feature is that nationally determined contributions will add up to the global response. Proposal to take global emissions budgets and divide them across countries were rejected.
Adaptation and Loss and Damage is much more prominent in the Paris Agreement than previous climate agreements. These include not only the goal, but plans for action, increased information flows and a more creative space.
A separate Article on Loss and Damage was included. While the provisions on Loss and Damage are relatively weak, acknowledging that there are issues beyond implementation is important to the most vulnerable countries and communities.
Mitigation in the Paris Agreement includes a long-term goal; mitigation contributions that are obligations of conduct require domestic measures to achieve objectives and will be strongly reviewed. Reporting and review is strengthened at individual country level, and the global stock-take will inform further mitigation targets. Longer term strategies from all Parties are encouraged.
A global stock-take will consider mitigation, adaptation and support every five years, based on equity and science to inform what more needs to be done.
Transparency is, in my view, the strongest feature of the Paris Agreement. The framework applies transparency to both action and support, with the latter needing work. While moving to common modalities, it will allow flexibility for those developing countries that have less capability, to improve reporting and review over time.
The Paris Agreement is a treaty in all but name. Its overall form is that of a legally binding agreement. The obligations within the treaty differ, some are binding and others not. Individual financial contributions by developed countries are not binding. Mandatory review of obligations is what is expected to strengthen action over time, together with obligations of conduct and achieving objectives in the case of mitigation.
Bringing in more actors into more creative spaces, ensuring a catalytic function for the Convention and perhaps changing it internally. Paris takes further processes complementary to text-based negotiations – linking with multiple actors in more creative spaces. This means the Agreement might enable action at national level, with many other actors and international cooperation on cleaner energy.
It is too early to tell what will be the full implications of the Paris Agreement. Kyoto tried targets and time-tables for a small group of rich countries, Paris takes a nationally determined approach which has generated very broad participation. To solve the climate problem, we need both broad and deep solutions. The onus is all to show it work and particularly on those who killed Kyoto softly and promoted the bottom-up, incremental approach to addressing climate change, notably the US. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that Paris created movement in the right direction.
So what created the movement? There were many factors, but in the end, what was amazing about Paris is that it was a multi-lateral, collective solution. It was countries and many, many dedicated individuals working together than made the Paris Agreement.
As one looks forward from Paris, it is worth quoting Nelson Mandela in full, and start focusing on the hills that lie ahead:
I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.
Olumide Idowu is an environment activist and Team Lead of Climate Wednesday. He represented Nigerian youth at recently concluded COP 21 in Paris.