COP21_0The Conference of the Parties’ 21st session has just concluded in Paris and with its end comes the adoption of an incredibly significant milestone in international climate work. This extensive agreement has been the product of over a year’s worth of preparation and discussion, and effectively represents the beginning of the Post-2015 era of international affairs and climate policy. The Paris Agreement, adopted on December, 12, is one of the most progressive, comprehensive, and concrete international efforts to substantially combat climate change in history, setting the clear target of restricting global temperature rise to 2.0 degrees celsius, amongst a host of other goals.  While you can read the full body of the agreement here, some of the major points to take home include: the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), the Decisions to Give Effect to the Agreement, and the Articles of the Agreement itself.

The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are the product of the Post-2015 dialogues which have taken place over the past year, wherein each party to the treaty has developed a proposal of their intended policy and behavioral changes for the purpose of combatting climate change. This step is not only crucial because of the inherent involvement of member states in making conscious commitments to acknowledge and address the issue of climate change, but also because these individual national proposals provide accountability to each nation. Rather than signing on to lofty goals and broad targets of emissions reductions, INDCs force nations to think critically about their personal climate impacts, priorities, and what steps can be taken to alleviate them. Additionally, failure to commit to these contributions will be more glaringly obvious as each country has individual responsibilities to which they are held accountable, rather than failures reflecting on the international community as a whole.

The Decisions to Give Effect to the Agreement is an extensive section of the document, preceding the specific text of the agreement, which outlines the mechanisms through which the agreement can be COP21tangibly implemented. Within this section are a series of sub-sections which discussion topic areas ranging from mitigation to adaptation, loss and damage, financing, and more. Though somewhat self evident, this section is a vital organ within this document as it catalogues, in great detail, the systems through which the agreement will be implemented, tracked, and monitored across a wide range of categories. This section even goes as far as addressing transparency and compliance as an additional nod to accountability in the enforcement of the agreement.

Finally, the Articles of the Agreement are the main substance of the document – effectively the terms to which each party is agreeing. While it would be exhaustive to explain all of the finer details of the Agreement, it should be highlighted that by signing this treaty, the Parties have not only agreed to the goal of holding global temperature rise below 2.0 degrees celsius (above pre-industrial levels), but they have also committed to a long list of policy points and stipulations regarding the acknowledgement of climate change as a universal human issue, interrelated with issues of poverty and development, and to work to independently pursue INDCs as well as collectively build capacity for others to the same. In short, the Articles detail a historically bold commitment by the international community to set politics aside for the sake of combatting climate change, and should be celebrated as such.

For more details and discussion on the Paris Agreement and its implications, stay tuned to the IDEAS for Us blog!