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The Paris Agreement is the world’s most important 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 first global deal to lower greenhouse gas emissions is the UNFCCC – United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was founded in 1992. Note that the abbreviation UNFCCC also refers to the UN secretariat for climate change in Bonn. A body that was created after the environmental deal.

The UNFCCC can be seen as the foundation for all the UN’s work that considers climate change. One of the main principles is that rich countries are to take greater responsibility. Since their greater economies tend to be related to the extraction of fossil fuels. Which is the largest cause of climate change (2/3s of the global emissions). Amongst other things, richer countries are asked to give financial support to non-industrialised nations.


The Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement are like operationalisations of the UNFCCC. In other words, the UNFCCC can be seen as the guiding target. An agreement that acknowledges the need for international collaboration to reduce greenhouse emissions. More so, a deal that puts the largest pressure on industrialised nations. It includes 195 out of 197 countries. However, the UNFCCC is quite vague and does not include concrete action. Therefore the members have created the Kyoto protocol and the Paris Agreement. Deals that are more binding and state actual efforts.

The Kyoto protocol

As mentioned above, the UNFCCC needed more concrete ambitions. The possibility to create these was stated in article 17 of the convention. This article allows for suggestions on additional protocols that state concrete actions. Following this article, the Kyoto protocol was 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 was replaced by the current, and more ambitious, Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is, like the Kyoto protocol, an operationalisation of the ambitions of the UNFCCC. In other words, it is an effort that realises the goals of UNFCCC. As mentioned, the ambition is to limit global warming to far below 2°C, with the ambition of below 1,5°C. In line with UNFCCC, the deal springs from the idea that richer countries should be more responsible than poor ones. Amongst many things, rich countries are bound to contribute 100 million dollars per year. Something that began in 2020. This money is supposed to enable poorer nations to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

For the Paris Agreement to function, a minimum of 55 countries had to sign it. This was equivalent to about 55 % of the world’s total emissions. Luckily, 175 nations signed the agreement as soon as it was possible, on the 22nd of April 2016. Amongst the signing nations were China and the US, who together stand for about 40 % of the global emissions. Since the signing of the agreement was so successful, the Paris Agreement is seen as a global 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 nation intends to commit to regarding greenhouse gas reductions. As the Paris Agreement was signed, these contributions turned into NDC – Nationally Determined Contributions. This means that the intentions were made legally binding after the negotiations. Furthermore, the member states of the UN agreed to update the NDCs every 5th year. The idea is that this would make it easier to work harder with environmental urgencies. The last update of the Paris Agreement occurred at COP26.


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