COP 21: The Paris Paradigm by Vanita Awasthi & Rohit Kumar Gupta Volume

COP 21: The Paris Paradigm

Vanita Awasthi & Rohit Kumar Gupta*



“So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.”    Barack Obama, US President.[1]

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which opened for signature in connection with the Rio summit in 1992, forms the basis of international cooperation within the area of climate. The overall aim of the Climate Convention is to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system. The Kyoto Protocol, which contains binding commitments on quantified emission reductions for developed countries, was adopted at the third session of the Climate Convention in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. Despite 20 years of intensive negotiations, the world’s nations have yet to come to an agreement that would effectively prevent dangerous climate change. Global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) keep rising, which means that the world is headed for a 4°C temperature rise by 2100, if current trends continue. At the Paris summit in December 2015, 196 countries will meet to sign a new climate change agreement. But how likely is it that it will be meaningful and make a difference to climate action on the ground?

The Paper discusses the Climate change challenge, Conference of Parties (COP 21) and how is it different from other previous conferences. It also entails the key issues for negotiations, it’s prospects and the key global players involved in this summit.

KEYWORDS: UN Framework, Kyoto Protocol, Green House Gases, COP 21.




At the Paris summit in December 2015, 196 countries will meet to sign a new climate change agreement.[2] But how likely is it that it will be meaningful and make a difference to climate action on the ground? Not only is a deal possible but, with the right political leadership, it can lead to ambitious outcomes that will have a real impact on tackling climate change. Countries like the US and China are working to ensure an outcome is likely in 2015; and the years since the 2009 Copenhagen negotiations have seen some significant breakthroughs. The 2009 negotiations were fraught and chaotic,[3] with a last minute agreement emerging after frantic scenes on the conference floor. Yet international negotiations remain vital for countries to build on national approaches, providing reassurance that they are not acting alone, and making it easier for nations to work together towards a low carbon future. This is why the 2015 Paris summit is important.

A strong deal will make a significant difference to the ability of individual countries to tackle climate change. It will provide a clear signal to business, to guide investment toward low carbon outcomes. It will reduce the competitiveness impacts of national policies, and create a simpler, more predictable framework for companies operating in different countries. Vitally, a strong climate deal will help to meet international development aims, which are at increasing risk from rising global temperatures. Eliminating poverty, improving health and building security are all outcomes linked to tackling climate change. And it will also bring huge benefits to the natural environment by helping to avoid biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems upon which we all depend.

This year’s meeting in Paris will reverse the earlier model of climate action. Rather than produce a collective decision that divides up the “atmospheric space” available for emissions, the COP21 will build on the 2009 and 2010 negotiations in Copenhagen and Cancun. Nations will bring emissions pledges based on their individual circumstances, and the world will review those pledges for fairness and ambition, and see if they are adequate to the task.

The pledges are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), a phrase emphasizing that countries are protecting their sovereignty against binding commitments.[4] That is problematic when considering enforceability and overall adequacy of ambition, but the approach has allowed a far wider range of countries come in with national pledges. The approach began in Copenhagen with five people: Obama and the leaders of the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China).[5] Since these five nations produced this system, they now need to show that it can actually work.

Here is what’s new: This year’s INDCs are supposed to be universal. In the previous system (under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol), only the rich countries were responsible for emissions reductions. Now all countries are expected to act, and the “firewall” between richer and poorer countries is being taken down. The world has changed dramatically since 1992, when that first annex of “rich” countries was defined; the highly vulnerable countries in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the 48 least-developed countries (LDCs) broke from the big emerging economies to say that they had to act on emissions as well. They were especially concerned with China, whose massive growth since 2000 has led to it now being responsible for over 30 percent of total global emissions. Despite uncertainty, the pledges have rolled in. By the October deadline, 128 INDCs were on the U.N. website, representing about 150 countries and about 88 percent of all global emissions. Lagging are the major oil producers and some of the poorest nations in the world.[6] The INDCs are revealing. They show what each country believes its abilities are regarding climate change, how they see the issue, and where we might see movement in the future.

The success of the INDC process was in part is due to leadership by the United States and China in making joint announcements in November 2014 and September 2015 that their INDCs would be ambitious, though in different ways. They were “differentiated” pledges: The U.S. pledged 26-28 percent emissions reductions overall by 2025, the maximum the Obama administration could squeeze out of existing policies without requiring congressional action.[7] China pledged to peak its emissions by 2030 and increase its share of renewable energy by then. Premier Xi’s September announcement in Washington that China was creating a national cap-and-trade program by 2017 provided more momentum to the process.[8] The Obama administration was impressive and successful in coordinating with other major emitters to create meaningful action this year. The U.S.-China announcements come from the countries responsible for nearly half of global emissions, and apparently the two nations understand that they can have more impact together. The U.S.-Mexico joint announcement showed the U.S. was willing to work with other nations also, and administration officials reached out to numerous countries to encourage more ambition. While its own pledge is far weaker than needed, for once in the climate talks the U.S. was a leader and a cheerleader.[9]

Paris was a crucial deadline to seal a deal. In 2011, it was agreed in Durban that an agreement would be struck in 2015 to guide humanity away from excessive carbon emissions, which endanger the stability of our climate system.[10] Many other actors are beginning to move on climate change, but those actions may not prove sufficient or be sustained. Only states can collectively agree on enforceable commitments. There is no other available forum for a global agreement: We need the U.N. to succeed on climate change. Promises made in Paris will come into effect in 2020, and the targets that have been set by countries this year are for emissions reductions by 2025 or 2030. This has led some people to say that the agreement will have no effect until then. This is incorrect. Countries have already having to begin preparing to meet the pledges they have made. That is where the difficult work begins, in redirecting national economies away from high-carbon pathways of development.

There are various perspectives and angles which are inclined towards the successful implementation of the Paris agenda. First, people are perceiving climate change happening around them; they don’t have to just believe the scientists. Fall is coming later and is warmer, springs come earlier. Summers are hotter and last longer. The extreme weather of hurricanes, drought, heat waves, floods, and wildfires are affecting millions of people around the world, including Americans. Sea levels are steadily rising. In the United States, new polls say that skepticism about climate change is plunging, including among Republicans. In the United States, at least, a second tailwind is the economy, which was a massive headwind in the face of negotiations in 2009. Relatedly, President Obama used the economic crisis to direct some of the billions in stimulus funds to efficiency and lower-carbon approaches, when some nations were unwilling or unable to put major funding into climate change. Third, and also relatedly, is the wind itself. Solar and wind has become nearly as cheap as coal—at “grid parity” in some places. A few countries have begun to remove fossil fuel subsidies, and the U.S. is leading in shifting away from coal. Americans and people in other countries are seeing that the necessary shift from fossil fuels and toward efficiency and new renewables creates millions of jobs and economic growth. This also has the effect of creating a class of people in whose interest it is to drive down global emissions, since it creates new business and job opportunities. A fourth tailwind boosting action in 2015 is the pope’s message and campaign to make climate change and climate justice a moral and deeply religious issue. He sought in numerous speeches and his impressive encyclical Laudato Si[11] to connect issues of human development, poverty, and justice to the need to listen to the science of climate change and to act ambitiously.

We cannot expect the COP21 negotiations in Paris to resolve everything, and it won’t. Key parts of the Paris agreement are still not coming together, such as how the pledge of $100 billion in climate finance will be met and fairly apportioned. There is also major work to be done on the transparency of climate finance flows. There is demand, too, by the poorest and most vulnerable nations to secure a mechanism to address the “loss and damage” they are suffering, which cannot be adapted to. Finally, work will be needed immediately after Paris to continue to ratchet up efforts to keep the world under 2 C or even 1.5 C of warming. Far bolder plans will be needed to decarbonize the wealthiest economies by 2030, which would be fair, given those countries’ wealth and responsibility for creating the problem of climate change. The rest of the world will need to get to net zero carbon soon thereafter, probably by 2040 for emerging economies and 2050 for the least-developed ones. Together, decarbonization will require a major wartime-like mobilization. Switching economic pathways away from coal and other fossil fuels can create a huge stimulus program to bring nations out of their “great slowdown.” Capitalism can be very low carbon, but a major pulse of climate finance will be required to get this going. Governments have done this kind of thing before, and they can do it again.


In December 2015, countries will meet in Paris to sign a global agreement on climate change. But what should be in it? The 2015 agreement will be different from those that came before. In the early years of climate negotiations, the focus was on setting ‘top-down’ targets, which drove national action. Today, the emphasis has shifted. Individual countries are being asked to come forward with their own ambitions and plans for carbon reduction. Agreement at the global level is needed to to ensure that countries’ pledged contributions add up to sufficient global action, providing financial support for adaptation and the low carbon transition, while ensuring transparency to enhance co-operation. A good agreement will provide an enabling framework, allowing individual countries to do more than they could alone. Agreement is needed and possible on the following elements of a global deal:

  • Ambitious action before and after 2020: Countries are aiming to reach agreement in Paris on a deal that will come into force from 2020. This means ensuring each nation pledges its own ‘nationally determined contribution’ for post-2020 action, no later than March 2015. But, at the Durban talks in 2011, countries also agreed to accelerate action before 2020.[12] Limiting climate change in the long term depends on cumulative emissions so, if less is done now, greater effort will be needed in the future. Failure to act now will make it harder to limit temperature rises to less than 20C, much less 1.50C, above pre-industrial levels.[13] Emissions reduction pledges for the period up to 2020 have been made by more than 90 countries but, added together, these are, in the words of the UN, “far from sufficient to close the emissions gap.”[14] The agreement should include ambitious national plans for action from 2020 onwards, and a package of pre-2020 action, with more ambitious national mitigation pledges, better delivery of existing financial commitments and more action in key sectors, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy deployment and forest protection.
  • A strong legal framework and clear rules: To ensure action on the ground, governments and businesses must be confident that countries will deliver on the promises they make in the agreement, with processes to account for action and ensure transparency. The international agreement must have a clear legal basis that works for different national constitutions. Negotiations are already working towards finding the right legal design to ensure both certainty and the broadest participation. The legal form of the agreement should inspire confidence that commitments will be delivered in a timely and credible manner by national governments. This should be supported by a clear, shared accounting system and robust, transparent monitoring and reporting requirements.
  • Legal Nature: The hesitation and domestic opposition by countries such as the US, China and India to replicate a Kyoto-like system poses some challenges in how we create a robust and accountable agreement. The Paris outcome will include a range of legal instruments. Legal nature is one element to measure the political intent of countries, but not the only benchmark.
  • Long-term collective goal: 2°C is the obligation all countries have agreed is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. However, many companies and investors find this goal difficult to measure their spending against. Therefore having something more operational that governments, investors and others can benchmark their decisions against will help to make 2°C meaningful for the real economy.[15]
  • Ambition mechanism: Distinguishing Paris from other previous agreements is the importance of creating a regime to keep us on track for 2°C, rather than a one off deal. This will be important to give the long-term collective goal teeth. The mechanism should enable countries to step forward regularly every 5 years and increase ambition.
  • Transparency and accountability: The rules and assumptions which underpin how countries count their emissions is crucial to ensuring environmental integrity and avoid ‘creative accounting’. Verification is critical to ensure that countries understand the international expectations upon them to abide by the rules. These elements are crucial to provide other countries, corporates and investors with the confidence that countries will abide by the rules and implement their actions.
  • Financial support: Many developing countries need financial support to help catalyse their own domestic actions both in reducing emissions and in adapting to the impacts of climate change. Elements which are important are: the proportion of funding that goes towards adaptation, donors fulfilling their existing commitments, the potential for quantifiable targets for richer countries and if new donors should be included in the future agreement.
  • Loss and damage: As the impacts of climate change become more severe, adaptation is no longer an option. In this case, countries are beginning to look at some of the implications for this unmanageable situation. One of the first issues this raises is how to attribute climate change to a specific event that causes loss and damage, understand and document those impacted by such events and then identify how to redress their loss.



European Union: On 25 February 2015, the European Commission published a communication[16] outlining its position on the Agreement, as well as its INDC. The EU’s INDC commits to an emissions reduction of at least 40% by 2030, as agreed by the October 2014 European Council. The EU urges the Parties to submit ambitious INDCs well in advance of the Paris conference, preferably by the first quarter of 2015. The EU supports a transparent and dynamic legally binding agreement, preferably in the form of a protocol. Its long-term goal should be to reduce global emissions by at least 60% below 2010 limits by 2050. In order to join the protocol, a Party would have to make a legally binding mitigation commitment.[17] G20 and other high-income countries should have economy-wide absolute emissions targets, by 2025 at the latest. With regard to differentiation, the communication states that, ‘countries with the highest responsibilities and capabilities need to have the most ambitious mitigation commitments’. The EU advocates robust rules and procedures for measuring, reporting, verification, accounting and compliance, as well as a five-year cycle for regularly reviewing and strengthening mitigation commitments in line with science, and evolving responsibilities, capabilities and national circumstances. Linking of carbon markets and transfers of mitigation commitments between countries should be allowed. The EU considers that the Agreement should provide a framework for shifting investment towards low-emission climate-resilient programmes and policies. All Parties should improve the environment for climate-friendly investments. The amount of climate finance would depend on the ambition and quality of INDCs, investment plans and national adaptation plans.

China: Over the last decade China has been actively engaged in improving energy efficiency and direct interventions aimed at addressing rising carbon emissions. As the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China has made a number of commitments in the lead up to the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to be held in Paris in December 2015. In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), China committed by 2030:

■ To achieve the peaking of carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 and making best efforts to peak early;

■ To lower CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (emissions intensity) by 60-65 percent from the 2005 level;

■ To increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20 percent; and

■ To increase the forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters on the 2005 level. These commitments are reinforced in the two joint announcements (here and here) between the United States and China in November 2014 and September 2015, respectively. In addition to the 2030 commitments, China has announced a target for 2020 to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 40-45 percent relative to 2005. China has also announced targets in its Five-Year Plans (FYPs). Figure 1 presents China’s targets over the 11th FYP (2006-2010) and the 12th FYP (2011-2015), as well as targets in 2020 and 2030.[18]

India: India’s priority is economic growth and the eradication of poverty. A fifth of its population does not have access to electricity, so electrification is a priority for the country. Indian government agencies are preparing plans for domestic climate action, but these would only slow the growth of carbon emissions, not expected to peak within the next 30 years. On 25 January 2015, the US and India announced an informal agreement to boost clean-energy investments in India. The US will provide technology and finance to help India achieve its goal of installing 100 gigawatts of solar power capacity by 2020.[19] India agreed to negotiate the reduction of hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs), a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigeration equipment. In 2013, India emitted 2.4 billion metric tons (GT) of carbon dioxide, making it the third-largest emitter in the world. India ranks in emissions behind only China (10.0 GT) and the United States (5.2 GT). Along with the European Union, these three countries emitted almost 60 percent of the worldwide CO2 emissions in 2013.[20]

In its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution,[21] India expressed its intent by 2030 to:

  1. Reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 percent from the 2005 levels.
  2. Increase the percentage of non-fossil-fuel electricity to about 40 percent of total electric power capacity.
  3. Create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3.0 billion tons of CO2-equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.

United States: US climate policy has been characterised by US Congress opposition to commitments for emissions reduction on the part of the US, and to binding international agreements that do not commit developing countries. In 1998, the US Senate passed a resolution which blocks ratification of any agreement that commits the US to reducing emissions without commitments for developing countries, or harms the US economy.[22] As a result, the US did not sign the Kyoto Protocol (but nevertheless happened to meet the emission targets by switching electricity generation from coal to shale gas). President Barack Obama presented a climate action plan in 2013 comprising measures that do not need congressional approval, including rules for emissions from power plants and fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. On 22 January 2015, the US Senate rejected amendments for a US transition away from fossil fuels and for supporting research on carbon capture and storage technologies. Speaking at the Lima conference, Secretary of State, John Kerry insisted that developing countries, which account for more than half of the world’s emissions, must also take action. He considered energy policy as the solution, and climate action as ‘one of the greatest economic opportunities of our time’. However, US ambition in international negotiations is limited by the attitude of the Republican majority in the US Congress. The US does not support binding targets or mandatory assessment of INDCs.

Brazil, a major developing country, pledged to reduce its emissions by more than 36% by 2020 compared to ‘business as usual’ projections, and aims to further reduce deforestation. For the Paris Agreement, it proposed a dynamic interpretation of differentiation whereby countries take on progressively more responsibilities in line with their economic development.[23] Malaysia’s Prime Minister said that fast-developing nations like Malaysia can show other developing countries that economic growth and carbon emissions need not be linked, and have an important role in helping to bridge the ‘trust gap’ between ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. Mexico, a country experiencing fast economic growth and rising carbon emissions, established climate change as a priority in its 2012 General Law on Climate Change, and pledged to reduce emissions 30% below ‘business as usual’ levels by 2020.[24] Mexico considers both mitigation and adaptation as central elements of the Agreement, and advocates adequate flexibility for national circumstances, clear and comparable INDCs, and a mechanism for gradually increasing the level of ambition in response to scientific findings, as well as on the basis of countries’ levels of development.[25]


While international climate negotiations are always complex and fraught, there are strong reasons for optimism about the outcome of the 2015 summit. The US and China have shifting their positions is a big change. The past five years have seen significant shifts in position from the most influential countries, notably China and the US. Despite a divided Congress, President Obama has committed to reducing emissions, making climate change a defining issue of his second term. China has an ambitious strategy to grow its renewables sector, with tough new laws on air pollution and strong action on limiting coal consumption. Last year, the two countries signed an agreement to work together on carbon reduction in crucial sectors including transport and energy efficiency. A clear timetable has been made to clear the air regarding the seriousness to the deal. The agreement reached in Durban in 2011, together with discussions in Warsaw in 2013, set a clear timetable. This should mean that negotiations are more ordered and less last minute than the Copenhagen talks. Although there are a large number of issues to be resolved, the institutional framework is much more developed than it was in 2009, including a functioning reporting system and the Green Climate Fund. The case for action is understood as the benefits of action, and the consequences of inaction, are becoming ever clearer. Businesses are mobilising to call for a strong agreement, with a new coalition, representing more than 500 global companies, forming in June 2014.[26] Mounting evidence on the impacts of climate change, which is increasing the risk of extreme events, from the recent winter flooding in the UK to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, is underlining the case for action. This does not make a strong global agreement automatic or easy. But it does raise the prospect of serious multilateral co-operation to achieve a common goal.

Both sides recognize that, given the latest scientific understanding of accelerating climate change and the urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, forceful, nationally appropriate action by the United States and China – including large scale co-operative action – is more critical than ever.[27]


There is clear evidence that global co-operation will help to bolster individual countries’ efforts on carbon reduction, and increase overall ambition to tackle climate change. Above all, a global agreement provides more clarity and certainty, which will improve prospects for the global economy, for international development and for the natural environment. Taking action now will not only solve the problem of protecting the planet, but it will be a tremendous boost for economies.[28] The IPCC reports: growing evidence, greater consensus The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Fifth Assessment in 2014, summarising the work of thousands of scientists across the world. The message was, in the panel’s own words, “unequivocal”. Concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are now higher than they have been for nearly a million years, long before human society began. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind this increase. Without strong action, temperatures are very likely to exceed the 20C target that governments have committed to. This will result in serious consequences including sea level rises, heatwaves, loss of snow and ice cover, disruptions to agriculture and food production, and greater extremes of drought and rainfall.

In its 2013 report, for the first time the IPCC put a number on the total amount of carbon that can be emitted, while keeping within the 20C target. Keeping within this limit would require the emission of no more than 880 gigatonnes of carbon. This is, in effect, a global carbon budget. Yet, by 2011, 530 gigatonnes, or nearly two thirds of the total budget, had already been spent. Emissions must peak soon, and then decline steeply, to stay within the 20C limit.

There is consensus among business leaders that a strong global agreement will improve economic prosperity in the UK, the EU and elsewhere. Early action will help to avoid the economic cost of climate impacts, which could amount to between five and 20 per cent of GDP, depending on the level of warming.[29] There are additional economic benefits in low carbon investment, but signals need to be clear and consistent. Spending on low carbon goods and services is strong and growing.[30] However, in many parts of the world it remains a small proportion of overall investment. As the World Economic Forum states, “progress in green investment continues to be outpaced by investment in fossil fuel intensive, inefficient infrastructure”.[31] While low carbon investment is encouraged, so too is fossil fuel investment, resulting in conflicting signals to business. By making the wrong types of infrastructure investments now, we are condemning ourselves to more costly adjustments later. International Energy Agency research warns that delayed action would result in substantial additional costs, as high carbon investments made now would quickly lose their utility and value.[32] In the UK, the Committee on Climate Change has identified that the UK could save £100 billion from early action.[33] Investment in clean energy and transport systems also brings other economic benefits. It reduces vulnerability to volatile fossil fuel prices and improves local air quality which improves quality of life, saves lives and reduces healthcare spending.[34]

Without a climate agreement, outlook for business and the economic development of the poorest looks more challenging. Supply chains, particularly of agricultural products like wheat, rice and maize, will be affected, with consequent effects on price.[35] Disruption from extreme weather events will result in significant losses. The World Economic Forum’s report on global risks estimates the total economic losses from Hurricane Katrina at $125 billion, and from Hurricane Sandy at $70 billion for the states of New York and New Jersey alone.[36]

Global security Climate change is also likely to affect global security, with defence experts warning of increased conflict, humanitarian crises and refugee movements.[37] The Pentagon refers to climate change impacts as a “threat multiplier” which aggravates poverty, political instability and social tensions.[38] Ecosystems and biodiversity A strong climate agreement is essential to protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, both in the UK and elsewhere. Biodiversity is already in decline globally, and climate change will amplify this, significantly increasing the risk of extinctions. The speed of change is of particular concern, as it is unprecedented in geological history, and outpaces the ability of many species to adapt.[39] Academic analysis suggests that for each additional degree of warming a further ten per cent level of extinction is likely.[40] With climate change of up to 20C average warming, conservation strategies will be more challenging and expensive, but if temperatures rise further more major interventions will be required, such as deliberate relocation of species or major ecosystem engineering projects, and in some cases they will be impossible.[41] Prevention, through emissions reduction, is cheaper and more effective than a cure. Ecosystem protection and restoration is of central importance to the economy. The landmark TEEB study (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) estimates the future annual costs of biodiversity loss at between £1.4 and £3.1 trillion.[42] Consultants PwC say business is already being affected by declining biodiversity, through increased resource costs or reduced productivity in agriculture.[43] Protecting and restoring ecosystems such as forests and peatlands also helps to reduce emissions. About one quarter of all human-induced emissions comes from agriculture, forestry and other land use, mainly tropical deforestation and peatland degradation. This is recognised in global climate talks. The REDD+ initiative has the dual aim of reducing greenhouse gases and protecting forests in developing countries. Negotiations are underway to provide a financing mechanism, rewarding developing countries for protecting forests.


Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a landmark agreement on December 12 in Paris, charting a fundamentally new course in the two-decade-old global climate effort. Culminating a four-year negotiating round, the new treaty ends the strict differentiation between developed and developing countries that characterized earlier efforts, replacing it with a common framework that commits all countries to put forward their best efforts and to strengthen them in the years ahead. This includes, for the first time, requirements that all parties report regularly on their emissions and implementation efforts, and undergo international review.


The agreement and a companion decision by parties were the key outcomes of the conference, known as the 21st session of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, or COP 21.  Together, the Paris Agreement and the accompanying COP decision:


  • Reaffirm the goal of limiting global temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius, while urging efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees;
  • Establish binding commitments by all parties to make “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), and to pursue domestic measures aimed at achieving them;
  • Commit all countries to report regularly on their emissions and “progress made in implementing and achieving” their NDCs, and to undergo international review;
  • Commit all countries to submit new NDCs every five years, with the clear expectation that they will “represent a progression” beyond previous ones;
  • Reaffirm the binding obligations of developed countries under the UNFCCC to support the efforts of developing countries, while for the first time encouraging voluntary contributions by developing countries too;
  • Extend the current goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in support by 2020 through 2025, with a new, higher goal to be set for the period after 2025;[44]
  • Extend a mechanism to address “loss and damage” resulting from climate change, which explicitly will not “involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation;”
  • Require parties engaging in international emissions trading to avoid “double counting;” and
  • Call for a new mechanism, similar to the Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, enabling emission reductions in one country to be counted toward another country’s NDC.


The strong momentum toward an agreement that built over the preceding months was dramatically underscored on the opening day of the summit by the presence of 150 presidents and prime ministers, the largest ever single-day gathering of heads of state. Impetus came also from a vast array of “non-state actors,” including governors, mayors and CEOs, and the launch in Paris of major initiatives like the Breakthrough Energy Coalition announced by Bill Gates and other billionaires.[45]


Negotiations on many issues were hard-fought and, in typical COP fashion, progress through most of the conference was painstakingly slow.  But thanks to deft diplomacy by the French presidency, the summit was remarkably free of the kind of procedural showdowns that have marred previous COPs and though the conference ran 24 hours past the official deadline, as the final deal was gaveled through, one party after another declared that history had been made.


As French President Francois Hollande summed it up:“In Paris, there have been many revolutions over the centuries.[46] Today it is the most beautiful and the most peaceful revolution that has just been accomplished – a revolution for climate change.”

Key steps remain.  Many operational details of the new framework were left to be decided by future COPs.  And the agreement will take effect only once enough countries have formally ratified it. The lack of action on climate change not only risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world, it threatens to roll back decades of sustainable development.[47]


* Chanakya National Law University, Boy’s Hostel, Room-313, Mithapur, Patna-800001

[1] ‘Remarks by the President on Climate Change’, 25 June 2013, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

[2] UN Climate Change Newsroom for United Nations for Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCC)

[3] The Paris Protocol 2015, Martina Traia available at

[4] A Transformative End to the Year, Timmons Roberts available at

[5] The Ultimate Circus comes to Town, Suzanne Goldenberg available at

[6] Ibid

[7] Us Climate Pledge Promises to Push For Maximum Ambition available at

[8] China, United States and the European Union: Multiple Bilateralism and Prospects of a New Climate Change Diplomacy available at

[9] Climate Summit available at

[10] Climate Change: Global Policy Forum available at

[11]Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father available at

[12] The ‘Durban Platform for Enhanced Action’, or ADP, agreed two workstreams: one on developing an agreement in 2015 to take effect in 2020; the other to increase ambition between now and 2020. See: unfccc. int/bodies/body/6645.php

[13] The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will consider strengthening the goal to 1.5°C by 2015, on the basis of best scientific knowledge available, see: cancun_agreements/items/6132.php

[14] UNFCCC, October 2013, UNFCCC/ TP/2014/8, Updated compilation of information on mitigation benefits of actions, initiatives and options to enhance mitigation ambition

[15] UNEP, November 2010, The emissions gap report: are the Copenhagen Accord pledges sufficient to limit global warming to 2 degrees C or 1.5 degrees C?

[16] Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: The Paris Protocol – A blueprint for tackling global climate change beyond 2020, 25 February 2015.

[17] This position mirrors the EU’s internal climate policy with binding targets for all Member States.

[18] National Development and Reform Commission of China (2015);Enhanced Actions on Climate Change: China’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions


[20] Report published under “Trends of global CO2 Emissions 2014” at

[21] India’s October submission of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the United Nations

[22] The Byrd-Hagel Resolution at

[23] Paris 2015: Tracking Country’s Climate Pledges at

[24] Ibid at 12

[25] Ibid at 12

[26] The ‘We Mean Business’ coalition is a group of existing business coalitions arguing for strong climate action

[27] Office of the Spokesperson Washington, DC, media note, 13 April 2013, ‘Joint US-China Statement on Climate Change

[28] World Bank news, 11 April 2014, ‘Heads of World Bank, IMF & UN Discuss Climate Risks & Policies with Finance Ministers

[29] EU Climate Change Expert Group ‘EG Science’, July 2008, The 2°C target: background on impacts, emission pathways, mitigation options and costs

[30] Green Alliance, 2013, The global green race: a business review of UK competitiveness in low carbon markets

[31] World Economic Forum, 2013, Green investment report

[32] IEA 2013, World Energy Outlook

[33] Committee on Climate Change, December 2013, Fourth carbon budget review, part 2: The cost-effective path to the 2050 target

[34] OECD, 2014, The cost of air pollution

[35] IPCC, 2014, Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability

[36] World Economic Forum, Global risks 2013, eighth edition

[37] This is emphasised in reports by RUSI, the IPCC and the Ministry of Defence

[38] US Department of Defense, 2014, Quardrilennial defense review

[39] Professor Chris Thomas, 2012, ‘Nature conservation at 4degC’ in Climate change: biodiversity and people on the front line, RSPB, Natural England and WWF-UK

[40] Ibid

[41] Ibid

[42] TEEB, 2012, The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity in business and enterprise

[43] PwC for the World Economic Forum, January 2010, Biodiversity and business risk

[44] Green Alliance, April 2014, The low carbon energy lift: powering faster development in sub-Saharan Africa

[45] Lima Paris Action Agenda at

[46] “Climate Change Revolution in Paris away from Fossil Fuels” at

[47] World Bank & Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics, November 2012, Turn down the heat: why a 4degC warmer world must be avoided, page ix


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