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The Paris Agreement is the world’s most significant agreement to fight climate change. It was the result of the COP21 in Paris 2015. Above all, the international goal is to keep global warming below 2°C. Although preferably 1,5°C.

International climate deals

The UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is the first global deal to lower greenhouse gas emissions. It got created in 1992 and involves 195 out of 197 countries today. Note that the abbreviation UNFCCC also refers to the UN secretariat for climate change in Bonn – a body established after the environmental deal.

The UNFCCC is the foundation for all the UN’s work considering climate change. One of the main principles is that industrialized countries are to take greater responsibility, as they are more responsible for climate change (due to the extraction of fossil fuels). Amongst other things, wealthier nations are to give financial support to non-industrialized countries.


The Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement are like operationalizations of the UNFCCC. In other words, the UNFCCC is the guiding target, and the other agreements are more concrete actions and ambitions. The target acknowledges the need for international collaboration to reduce greenhouse emissions.

The Kyoto protocol

As mentioned above, the UNFCCC needed more concrete ambitions. Therefore, the convention included Article 17, which allows additional protocols that state concrete actions. The first one of these protocols was the Kyoto protocol, created in 1997. It established a binding agreement that stated clear reductions of greenhouse gases. In other words, the Kyoto protocol is the first implementation of actual measurements of the UNFCCC. It expired in 2020 and got replaced by the current and more ambitious Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is, like the Kyoto protocol, an operationalization of the ambitions of the UNFCCC. In other words, it is an effort that realizes the goals of UNFCCC. As mentioned, it aims to limit global warming to below 2°C, with the ambition of below 1,5°C. In line with UNFCCC, the deal springs from the idea that industrialized nations are more responsible than non-industrialized ones. Amongst many things, wealthier countries are to contribute 100 million dollars per year. The money is supposed to enable poorer nations to adapt to and mitigate climate change. More so, the payment began in 2020.

For the Paris Agreement to function, at least 55 countries had to sign it. This number was equivalent to about 55% of the world’s total emissions. Luckily, 175 nations signed the agreement rapidly on the 22nd of April 2016. China and the US were among the signing nations, representing about 40 % of the global emissions. Since the signing of the agreement was so successful, the Paris Agreement is considered an international victory.

The NDCs of the Paris Agreement

Before the COP meeting in Paris in 2015, the UN asked every nation to submit their INDCs. These are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. They state what each government intends to commit to regarding greenhouse gas reductions. With the signing of the Paris Agreement, these contributions turned into NDC – Nationally Determined Contributions. This change means that the intentions were made legally binding after the negotiations.

Finally, the member states of the UN agreed to update the NDCs every 5th year. To increase the level of ambition and tackle environmental urgencies. The last update of the Paris Agreement occurred at COP26.


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