What is The Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement, brought to us in December of 2015, is an International treaty on climate change under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).  This agreement was born in it’s namesake of Paris, France, and was the first act of its type and is a landmark for the climate change process.

189 of the EU states, representing around 97% of greenhouse gas emissions have entered the legally binding agreement, bringing a common cause throughout the member countries by setting out a number of goals for economic and social transformation that will lead into facing climate challenges now, and in the future, with aims to reduce the amount gas emissions, and focus directly on taking our climate to an ideal of 1.5°C, but offers 2° as starting goal. The member states of the Paris Agreement can be found here.

The countries who have not agreed to be a part of this climate action are Eritrea, Iraq, South Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

How does it work?

The Paris Agreement works on a five year cycle of continued climate action, that encourages countries to share the actions they are taking in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and allows them to keep further steps in mind to allow for them to adapt with the rising temperatures in the future. This may be seen through adaptation and finance flow, but there are also options for help with technical, financial and capacity building to these countries where necessary.

By the regulations set out in accordance with this, developed countries should take the lead in providing assistance, whether financial or otherwise, in order to help the countries that may have less access and more vulnerability in this area.

Referring to technology, a technology framework provided to the most powerful countries draws out the vision of fully realising technology development and transfer may both improve resilience to climate change while reducing GHG emissions.

As a part of the agreements cycle, it was decided that  by 2020, countries should communicate their plans as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that help them to build towards the goal set in the Paris Agreement, and are encouraged to submit long term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies (LT-LEDS) in the same year. Unlike NDCs, LT-LEDS these are not mandatory, but do help to pave the way to NDCs by showing long term plans and development priorities.

By 2024 under the Paris Agreement, member countries  should be starting to be transparent to report actions they have taken through an Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF). In this report, information should be given about what support has been provided by other countries, alongside actions taken and the progress of these actions. This information will then be carried ver into the Global Stocktake; An assessment process to help determine the results of these actions, and lead to recommendations for more ambitious actions following the results.

What are its goals?

Article 2, found on page 3 of the Paris agreement outlines the goals they have set for themselves;

“(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;

(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and

(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

2. This Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.”

In short, the Paris Agreement’s leading  goal is to drop our global average temperature to well below 2°, whilst pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognising that this could reduce the risks of a climate crisis significantly.

By limiting a rise to 1.5°c, some scientists say that there is hope to prevent small islands from sinking, help millions of people avoid the impacts of extreme weather and limit the chance of an ice-free arctic summer.

So far, the results of this act has been extreme, having already sparked low-carbon solutions and new markets, it is also known that more countries, religions and cities are establishing further carbon neutrality tarts and zero-carbon solitons, which are becoming competitive across economic sectors that make up up to 25% of our emissions. It is visible mostly in the power and transport sectors as we see them today, and the UNFCCC suggest that by 2030, zero-carbon solutions should be competitive in sectors representing over 70% of global emissions.

How will it affect small businesses in the UK in the next few years?

The shift towards low and zero-carbon emissions technologies challenges businesses globally, but especially small businesses, according to Carbon Disclosure Project’s Paula DiPerna. She says that businesses who understand the demand for a low carbon economy or even offer new pathways to energy efficiencies will be highly successful in the following years, with a number of unpredicted business opportunities rising at this time.

Right now is the best time to take advantage of these changes and invite new opportunities to their business and enhance promotion by using renewable energy technologies, especially in locations such as Africa.

Unfortunately, there are some concerns about the impact of these steps on small businesses, too; As a result of small businesses not complying with the rules set out by The Paris Agreement, larger companies that they supply may feel forced to scrutinize these supply chains and even move away from those who do not (or cannot) make the changes in order to contribute to an overall carbon diet, as this impacts their business directly.

In 2017, former United States’ President Donald Trump withdrew the country from the Paris Agreement, as the climate change denier claimed that it would undermine the US economy, and put them at “a permanent disadvantage”. This came into effect the day he lost the presidential election, but as a direct opposition to this, 2021 elected President Joe Biden’s first act was to start the process of rejoining the climate deal, and following the signed statement sent to the UN, it is now possible for the US to rejoin the agreement after the 30 days following this approval.

Although the states will have to build trust with the EU countries once again, Biden and new climate envoy John Kerry have a driven list of climate challenges in the coming years, including;

  • put the US on a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, which scientists say could have significant implications for the 1.5C target
  • restore the US as a world leader in climate action
  • Cancel the controversial XL keystone pipeline, which would carry oil 1,200 miles from Alberta in Canada, to Nebraska in the States.

Despite the last year of absence from The United States, there are many aspects of their interaction that would be seen to boost the success of the climate agreement, for example, their engagement is said to be crucial to the success of priority global talks coming to Glasgow, Scotland in November; and the Annual Conference of the Parties (Cop) is expected to finalise the rules of how the Paris Agreement will operate under these circumstances in the future.