Paris Climate Change Agreement

On 12 December 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed on a new, global and legally binding agreement on climate change. The agreement supplements the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded in 1992. The commitments of the Paris Agreement concern the time after 2020 when the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol has ended.
For the Paris Agreement to enter into force, it was required that at least 55 Parties accounting in total for at least 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions had committed to the agreement. The threshold for the entry into force was met in October 2016, when the EU and certain individual countries also ratified the agreement. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. Finland ratified the agreement on 14 November 2016. Commitment to the agreement takes place via the national instruments in each country by ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. A list of Parties to the agreement is available on the website of the Secretariat of the UNFCCC.

Objectives of the Paris Agreement

The objective of the Paris Agreement is to keep the increase in the global average temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.

The aim is to reach the peak in global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and, after that, reduce emissions sufficiently fast so that the emissions caused by human activities and sinks will be in balance towards the end of the century.

Besides the emission reduction targets, the agreement sets a long-term target concerning climate change adaptation and the target to direct money flows towards climate-sustainable development and low-carbon economies.

Global reviews, or ‘stocktakes’, will be conducted every five years to take a look at what has been collectively achieved by the Parties relative to the targets. The first global review will take place in 2023.

To achieve the objective of the Paris Agreement, all Parties should take ambitious measures that will be further intensified to reduce emissions, adapt to climate change, increase climate funding, boost technology develop and transfer, strengthen operational capabilities, and enhance transparency. The Paris Agreement does not include any quantitative emission reduction obligations, but the Parties commit to the preparation, communication, maintenance and achievement of their successive national emission targets. The Parties are obliged to present their national contributions every five years, and the most recent target must always be more ambitious than the previous one.

The national commitments declared by the Parties are deposited in the public register maintained by the UNFCCC Secretariat. The national commitments made so far are available in a temporary register also kept by the UNFCCC.

Implementation of the Paris Agreement

The Rulebook concerning the implementation of the Paris Agreement was adopted at the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Katowice in December 2018. The rules are comprehensive and common to all, while also allowing certain flexibilities for the developing countries:

With respect to the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the Rulebook covers the following:

  • implementation of the mechanism to boost the achievement of the emission reduction targets, i.e. global reviews or ‘stocktakes’,
  • further details on the national contributions,
  • guidance for the reporting, monitoring and assessment,
  • rules for reporting on climate funding,
  • implementation concerning technology development and transfer,
  • guidance for adaptation communication, and
  • modalities and procedures for the committee to facilitate implementation and promote compliance.

In Katowice no agreement was reached on the implementation of the market mechanisms under the Paris Agreement, and the negotiations on these will continue. Besides these, the negotiations will now focus on e.g. the technical details relating to reporting.

Successful implementation of the Paris Agreement depends on raising the global level of ambition, as the emission reduction targets and measures declared by the Parties so far are not enough to limit the rise in temperature in such a way that the objective will be met. The countries were to update their national contributions by 2020.

More information

Outi Honkatukia, Senior Ministerial Adviser 
Ministry of the Environment, Environmental Protection Department, Climate Environment Council  0295250272