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After witnessing the historic signing of the Paris Agreement by 175 nations, we now need to turn our attention to fulfilling its promise.
As its nationally determined contribution to the agreement, the United States set a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In a new paper, C2ES outlines how expected and in-place policies could get us close to the goal line -- reducing emissions by as much as 22 percent. Getting the rest of the way can likely be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation.
First, let’s look at how we can get to a 22 percent reduction.
U.S. net emissions are already down more than 9 percent from 2005 levels due to market- and policy-related factors, including a shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, growth in renewable energy, level electricity demand, and improved vehicle efficiency.
The C2ES business-as-usual forecast, drawn from a number of analyses, projects an additional 5.6 percent reduction in net emissions through such policies as greenhouse gas standards for vehicles and the Clean Power Plan.
The rest of the anticipated emissions reductions is expected to come from new, higher estimates of future carbon sequestration and additional measures under development, including steps to strengthen fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Now, how will we address the remaining gap of at least 270 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent?
Additional federal policies would help. For example, greenhouse gas standards could be set for major industrial sectors under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, the same section that underlies the Clean Power Plan.
Technological advances that lower the cost of emissions reduction will also undoubtedly play an important role. Over the next five to 10 years, battery storage technologies are expected to improve by a factor of 10, which would support the integration of more renewable generation. A promising design for a natural gas power plant with nearly 100 percent carbon capture will enter the demonstration phase next year and could be commercialized soon after. And agricultural advances are leading to more sustainable crops able to sequester more carbon dioxide in their root systems.
Stronger efforts by cities will also be critical to filling the gap. A growing number of cities are working to improve the energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings, which account for for 41 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. Greater adoption of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which help finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, could significantly reduce city energy demand. Similarly, city programs to build out infrastructure to increase the adoption rate of electric vehicles will, in-time, appreciably lower transportation-related emissions.
Companies, too, will play a key role. Twelve leading companies signed the C2ES statement calling on governments to quickly join the Paris climate pact and pledging to work with countries toward the domestic measures needed to achieve their national emissions-cutting contributions. More than 150 U.S. companies with a combined market capitalization in excess of $7 trillion joined the American Business Act on Climate Pledge – committing to reduce emissions, increase renewable power, or finance climate efforts. And the White House is calling on more companies to join the initiative.
The United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade. Cutting emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 is a challenging goal. But many options remain untapped, and concerted efforts across multiple fronts can get us across the goal line.
The Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS
and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
The Hon. Rachel Notley leads Alberta's first New Democratic government, with a strong majority and a diverse caucus including the highest percentage of women of any government in Canada. She was sworn in as Alberta's 17th Premier on May 24, 2015.
U.S. can reach Paris Agreement climate goal, but more will be needed
New analysis breaks down estimates of future emissions reductions
WASHINGTON – Existing and expected policies can take the United States most of the way toward its Paris Agreement goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the remaining reductions can likely be achieved through a mix of additional policies, city and business action, and technological innovation, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES).
As part of the landmark global climate agreement to be signed Friday by more than 150 nations, the United States set a goal of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. In a new paper, C2ES outlines how expected and in-place policies could reduce U.S. emissions by as much as 22 percent.
“To get all the way to the goal line, we’ll need concerted efforts across multiple fronts. But the goal is definitely within reach,’’ said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe.
U.S. net emissions are already down about 9 percent from 2005 levels due to market- and policy-related factors, including a shift in electricity generation from coal to natural gas, growth in renewable energy, level electricity demand, and improved vehicle efficiency.
The C2ES business-as-usual forecast, drawn from a number of analyses, projects an additional 5.6 percent reduction in net emissions through such policies as greenhouse gas standards for vehicles and the Clean Power Plan.
The rest of the anticipated 22 percent in emissions reductions is expected to come from new, higher estimates of future carbon sequestration and additional measures under development, including steps to strengthen fuel economy standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
Filling the remaining gap of at least 270 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent will require further steps, such as additional federal policies, technological advances that lower the cost of emissions reduction, and stronger efforts by cities and businesses.
“We’ve seen unprecedented support from cities and businesses for the Paris Agreement and climate action,” Perciasepe said. “Cities and businesses should press forward with their efforts, and we need to quantify their progress and learn from their examples to help the United States reach its climate goal.”
- Q&A: Answers to Key Questions about the Paris Agreement
- Summary of the Paris Agreement
- C2ES Business Statement supporting Paris Agreement
- Sampling of pledges of action by cities, states and companies
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our energy and climate challenges. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
Achieving the United States' Intended Nationally Determined Contribution
More than 180 nations representing more than 95 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions offered “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) to the Paris Agreement reached in December 2015. The United States’ INDC is an economy-wide target to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Available analyses suggest that the United States could reduce emissions by as much as 22 percent with policies either already in place or soon anticipated. Options for achieving further reductions to meet the 2025 target may include additional policies, technological advances, and stronger action by cities and companies. Concerted efforts across multiple fronts could reasonably produce the reductions needed to meet the goal. This paper examines the progress that has been achieved since 2005, the effect existing and proposed policies will have by 2025 as well plausible steps to fill the gap.
April 20, 2016
Contact Laura Rehrmann, email@example.com, 703-516-0621
Major companies support Paris Agreement
Urge governments to move quickly to formally join climate pact
WASHINGTON – Twelve leading companies based or with major operations in the United States voiced strong support today for the landmark global climate agreement to be signed this week and urged governments to move expeditiously to formally join it.
In a statement organized by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), the companies said they recognize rising climate risks and welcome the agreement reached in December at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Paris “as an expression of the strong governmental leadership needed to smoothly transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future.”
The Paris Agreement, to be signed Friday in New York by more than 150 countries, establishes “an inclusive, pragmatic and, hopefully, durable framework for progressively strengthening efforts globally to address the causes and consequences of climate change,” the statement says.
The statement was endorsed by Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Calpine, HP Inc., Intel, LafargeHolcim, Microsoft, National Grid, PG&E, Rio Tinto, Schneider Electric, Shell, and Siemens.
“These companies have real skin in the game – either they’re big energy producers or users,” said C2ES President Bob Perciasepe. “They know emissions need to come down and are taking action on their own. But they also believe the low-carbon transition requires government leadership to ensure that all major economies are doing their fair share.”
The statement says the Paris Agreement will help facilitate and strengthen the role of the private sector in the low-carbon transition by providing long-term direction, promoting transparency, addressing competitiveness, and facilitating carbon pricing.
“Allowing, and ensuring the environmental integrity of, international emissions trading will help facilitate the growth and credibility of carbon markets, a critical tool for cost-effective emissions reduction,” the statement says.
Many of the companies joining the statement were among the hundreds that pledged specific climate actions in the lead-up to the Paris conference.
"We encourage governments to move expeditiously to formally join the Paris Agreement,” the statement says, "and pledge to work with countries to enact and implement the domestic measures needed to achieve their national contributions.”
The full statement is at: http://bit.ly/Biz4Climate
- Q&A: Answers to Key Questions about the Paris Agreement
- Summary of the Paris Agreement
- Business Resilience report: Major companies see climate impacts as a business risk.
- Sampling of pledges of action by non-state actors
About C2ES: The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization promoting strong policy and action to address our energy and climate challenges. C2ES works to galvanize business and public support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase resilience to climate impacts. Learn more at www.c2es.org.
Twelve major corporations based or operating in the United States are voicing strong support for the Paris Agreement as an expression of the strong governmental leadership needed to smoothly transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future.
The companies are endorsing a statement organized by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions encouraging governments to move expeditiously to formally join the Paris Agreement, and pledging to "work with countries to enact and implement the domestic measures needed to achieve their national contributions."
The full text is below.
Download a pdf of the statement.
BUSINESS STATEMENT WELCOMING THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT
This statement was developed by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and is supported by the major companies listed below.
The Paris Agreement on climate change is a landmark achievement – it establishes an inclusive, pragmatic and, hopefully, durable framework for progressively strengthening efforts globally to address the causes and consequences of climate change.
We recognize the rising environmental, social, economic, and security risks posed by climate change. As businesses concerned about the well-being of our investors, our customers, our communities and our planet, we are committed to working on our own and in partnership with governments to mobilize the technology, investment and innovation needed to transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy.
We welcome the Paris Agreement as an expression of the strong governmental leadership needed to smoothly transition to a low-carbon, sustainable future. The Agreement will help to facilitate and strengthen the role of the private sector in this transition by:
- Providing Long-Term Direction – The goals of keeping warming below 2°C, peaking global emissions, and achieving net greenhouse gas neutrality signal markets to shift investment toward the diverse range of technologies needed to achieve them.
- Promoting Transparency – By requiring countries to be transparent about their policy intentions and implementation, the agreement will provide greater clarity on policy landscapes, enabling companies to better anticipate regulatory risks and economic opportunities.
- Addressing Competitiveness – Global participation and the regular, simultaneous renewal of national contributions will promote a greater comparability of effort, helping to address potential carbon leakage and competitive imbalances that remain a concern for business.
- Facilitating Carbon Pricing – Allowing, and ensuring the environmental integrity of, international emissions trading will help facilitate the growth and credibility of carbon markets, a critical tool for cost-effective emissions reduction.
We encourage governments to move expeditiously to formally join the Paris Agreement, and pledge to work with countries to enact and implement the domestic measures needed to achieve their national contributions.
BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY ENERGY • CALPINE • HP Inc. • INTEL • LAFARGEHOLCIM
MICROSOFT • NATIONAL GRID • PG&E • RIO TINTO • SCHNEIDER ELECTRIC • SHELL • SIEMENS
- Press release on business statement
- C2ES also joined a coalition of groups coordinating a statement by companies in support of the Paris Agreement and climate action.
- Before the Paris talks, businesses also endorsed a C2ES-sponsored statement calling for a strong international climate agreement.
- C2ES report on how companies are preparing for climate risks: Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience
- Blog post: States, cities, companies support clean power
- Blog post: Climate agreement signals to business to invest, innovate
- Blog post: Businesses are taking climate action
In addition to producing the Paris Agreement, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference generated an unprecedented showing of action and support from all levels of society. “Non-state actors” such as cities, states and companies offered pledges via the online NAZCA Portal set up under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda. At the time of the conference, the portal listed nearly 11,000 commitments from more than 2,250 cities, 150 regions, 2,025 companies, 424 investors, and 235 civil society organizations.
Here is a sampling of the many initiatives launched in Paris by governments and/or non-state actors.
Members: Twenty-six investors, including Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Bill Gates (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures), Jack Ma (Alibaba Group), Pan Shiyi (SOHO China), Ratan Tata (Tata Industries), Meg Whitman (Hewlett Packard), and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook).
Purpose: Form a network of private capital committed to building a structure that will allow informed decisions to help accelerate the change to the advanced energy future. Success requires a partnership of increased government research, with a transparent and workable structure to objectively evaluate those projects, and committed private-sector investors willing to support the innovative ideas that come out of the public research pipeline.
The focus is on early stage financing (e.g. seed, angel and Series A investments, rather than financing ideas at a more mature development stage. Investment sectors include: electricity generation and storage, transportation, industrial use, agriculture, and energy system efficiency.
Members: Endorsed by 448 organizations from 65 countries across 30 sectors.
Purpose: Caring for Climate is an initiative mobilizing business leaders to implement and recommend climate change solutions and policies by advancing practical solutions, sharing experiences, informing public policy and shaping public attitudes. Companies can join by endorsing the Caring for Climate Statement, offering signatories on-going engagement opportunities in five work streams:
- Carbon Pricing
- Climate Adaptation
- Climate and Energy Action Hub
- Climate Policy and Engagement
- Transparency and Disclosure
Members: Mayors of 484 cities, representing 413,076,762 people worldwide and 5.70% of the total global population have committed to the Compact of Mayors.
Purpose: The Compact of Mayors is the world’s largest coalition of city leaders to reduce GHG emissions, track progress, and prepare for the impacts of climate change. The coalition aims to:
- Share best practices;
- Encourage increased capital flows into cities to support local action;
- Demonstrate commitment to action by voluntarily agreeing to rigorous transparency standards; and
- Establish a consistent, transparent accountability framework that can be used by national governments, private investors or the public.
To become a part of the compact, a city must first register a commitment to become compact compliant. A mayor then has up to three years to assess the current impacts of climate change in his or her city, update its GHG inventory, set a target to reduce emissions, conduct a vulnerability assessment consistent with compact guidance, and report in its chosen platform. The compact operates under the leadership of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), and the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), with support from UN-Habitat, the UN’s lead agency on urban issues.
Members: Twenty countries: Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Dubai, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United States, and Vietnam; 8 major groups: Lafarge Holcim, Saint Gobain, Velux, Consolidated Contractors Company, Danfoss, Veolia, Sekisui House, Suez Environnement; more than 50 national and international organizations, professional networks and funders.
Purpose: This worldwide alliance aims to gather countries, cities and public and private organizations of the building sector value chain, in order to scale up the implementation of ambitious actions toward the "below 2°C" pathway in buildings and construction sector. The alliance’s first priority is to collectively address major challenges in three clusters:
- Public strategies and policies: To support member cities, states, regions, and countries in developing, building capacity for, and implementing, comprehensive building efficiency strategies and policies.
- Value chain transformation: To work together to develop comprehensive action plans across the entire buildings value chain, including focus on workforce development, skills and training, support for technology transfer, and capacity building.
- Finance: To work to increase financing options adapted to accelerate investment and funding for building mitigation projects and programs.
Members: The Alliance will cover 120 countries including many African and Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, France, China and the United States. Companies involved in the project include Areva, Engie, Enel, HSBC France and Tata Steel.
Purpose: The ISA will expand solar power primarily in countries that are resource-rich but energy poor, by mobilizing public finance from richer states to deliver universal energy access. The ISA could support progress toward a clean energy pathway by lowering financing costs, developing common standards, encouraging knowledge sharing and facilitating R&D collaborations and co-development of technology.
Members: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, the United States.
Purpose: Each participating country will seek to double its governmental and/or state-directed clean energy research and development investment over five years. New investments would be focused on transformational clean energy technology innovations that can be scalable to varying economic and energy market conditions that exist in participating countries and in the broader world.
Mission Innovation will work with the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to generate private sector interest in continuing investment in technologies with the greatest potential following the public investment stage. There is also a commitment of Mission Innovation participating countries to make available all relevant data, expertise and analysis so that they can be easily accessed by all.
A first implementation meeting of Mission Innovation will be held in early 2016.
Members: More than 120 investors with more than $10 trillion in assets under management, based in Europe, US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Africa.
Purpose: The Montreal Carbon Pledge commits investors to measure and disclose the carbon footprint of our investments annually, with the aim of then developing a strategy or setting reduction targets. The Montreal pledge formalizes commitments to the goals of the Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition. The Montreal Carbon Pledge is organized by the Principles for Responsible Investors (PRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI)
Members: Thirty-six national governments, 20 subnational governments, 53 companies, 16 indigenous peoples’ groups, and 54 NGO/CSOs.
Purpose: Members will do their part to achieve a range of outcomes, including to halve the rate of natural forest loss by 2020, and end it by 2030. There are more specific goals to eliminate deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities by 2020, as well as broader goals to provide alternative incomes to local communities, provide incentives for governments which perform well and strengthening the rule of law in managing forests.
According to the declaration, the cumulative impact of these measures could be between 4.5-8.8 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year by 2030.
Members: Led by the International Network of Basins Organizations (INBO/RIOB), the Paris Pact on Water and Climate Adaptation consists of a wide geographic coalition of almost 290 national and cross-border river basin organizations and governments, funding agencies, local governments, companies and civil society.
Purpose: The initiative is designed to make countries mobilize their own basins organizations, in order to strengthen their resilience and their adaptation actions. The Pact encourages actions that:
- Reinforce capacity development and knowledge;
- Adapt basin management planning to climate change;
- Reinforce governance; and
- Ensure adequate financing.
These actions will contribute to reach Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Members: ABP, Allianz, AP4, Australian Ethical, Caisse des Dépôts, Church of Sweden, Environment Agency Pension Fund, Fonds de reserves pour les retraites (FRR), Humanis, KLP, Local Government Super, MN, Le Régime de Retraite additionelle de la Fonction publique (ERAFP), Storebrand, The University of Sydney, Toronto Atmospheric Fund, A Capital, Amundi Asset Management, BNP Paribas Investment Partners, Hermes Investment Management, Inflection Point Capital Management, Mandatum Life, Mirova, RobecoSAM, Sonen Capital.
Purpose: The PDC is a multi-stakeholder initiative to reduce the GHG emissions in investment portfolios. The coalition focuses on two separate initiatives; generating information on a carbon footprint and disclosing this information, and taking action to reduce the exposure of investment portfolios to greenhouse gas intensive companies and projects. The coalition has committed to a decarbonization of $600 billion, of a total of $3.2 trillion in assets under management. This surpasses the original target of $100 billion.
Members: FAO and Messe Düsseldorf are collaborating with donors, bi- and multi-lateral agencies and financial institutions and private sector partners (the food packaging industry and others) to develop and implement a program on food loss and waste reduction.
Purpose: The SAVE FOOD initiative aims at encouraging dialogue between industry, research, politics, and civil society on food losses. The initiative will regularly bring together stakeholders involved in the food supply chain for conferences and projects and will support them in developing effective measures. Another goal will be to raise public awareness of the impact of food waste. Four pillars of the SAVE FOOD initiative:
- Raising awareness, through a global communication and media campaign, the dissemination of Save Food program findings, and Regional SAVE FOOD Congresses, of the impact of and solutions for food loss and waste.
- Collaboration and coordination of world-wide initiatives and establishing a global partnership of public and private sector organizations and companies.
- Policy, strategy, and program development, including a series of field studies on a national-regional basis and studies on the socio-economic impacts of food loss and waste.
- Private and public sector support to investment programs and projects, including food supply chain actors and organizations either at the food subsector level or policy level.
Members: One-hundred-twenty-seven subnational jurisdictions, representing 729 million people and over $20 trillion in GDP
Purpose: Members are willing to commit to either reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80-95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, or achieving a per capita emissions target of less than two metric tons by 2050. This is in line with the scientifically established emissions level necessary to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
Members: British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Germany, Maryland, Massachusetts, The Netherlands, New York, Norway, Oregon, Québec, Rhode Island, The United Kingdom, Vermont
Purpose: Members signed a common statement to work together on encouraging Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV)deployment. This includes creating and sharing targets for future ZEV deployment across members. In addition, sharing data and best practices to be more effective in their ZEV deployment strategies.
Paris Climate Talks Q&A
Paris Climate Talks Q&A
More than 190 nations meeting in Paris in December 2015 reached a landmark agreement to strengthen the global climate effort. The Paris Agreement commits countries to undertake “nationally determined contributions” and establishes mechanisms to hold them accountable and to strengthen ambition in the years ahead. Countries are now proceeding with the steps necessary to bring the new treaty into force.
What was COP 21?
The Paris conference was the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP 21. The conference concluded a round of negotiations launched in Durban, South Africa, in 2011 with the aim of producing a new legal agreement among national governments to strengthen the global response to climate change. A record 150 heads of state and government attended the opening day of the conference.
What were the main outcomes of the Paris conference?
The Paris package had three main components: the Paris Agreement, an international treaty setting common goals, commitments and expectations; the intended “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) submitted by more than 180 countries; and the thousands of contributions offered by companies, states, cities and civil society organizations.
How did the Paris negotiations relate to the UNFCCC?
The UNFCCC, adopted in 1992, is a treaty among governments that provides a foundation for the global climate effort. Enjoying near-universal membership, the convention was ratified by the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. The convention set a long-term objective (avoiding “dangerous human interference with the climate system”), established principles to guide the global effort, and committed all countries to “mitigate” climate change by reducing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement defines how countries will implement their UNFCCC commitments after 2020.
How does the Paris Agreement differ from the Kyoto Protocol?
The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement negotiated under the UNFCCC in 1997 to strengthen the global climate effort. Kyoto established emissions targets for developed countries only—the primary reason the United States did not join. By contrast, the Paris Agreement includes mitigation commitments from all parties. In addition, the Kyoto targets were legally binding, and countries’ targets under the Paris Agreement are not.
What are nationally determined contributions?
In 2013, at COP 19 in Warsaw, parties were encouraged to submit their “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) to the Paris Agreement well in advance of COP 21. These INDCs represent each country’s self-defined mitigation goals for the period beginning in 2020. To date, 188 countries accounting for almost 99 percent of global emissions have submitted INDCs to the UNFCCC secretariat.
Developed countries have offered absolute economy-wide emissions targets (the United States, for instance, has pledged to reduce its emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025). Developing countries have offered a range of approaches, including absolute economy-wide targets, reductions in emissions intensity (emissions per unit of GDP), reductions from projected “business-as-usual” emissions, and reductions in per-capita emissions. C2ES has produced a summary of countries’ INDCs.
Final NDCs are submitted by each party upon its formal ratification or acceptance of the agreement, and are recorded in a UNFCCC registry.
What obligations do countries have under the agreement to reduce their emissions?
The Paris Agreement establishes a set of binding procedural commitments. Parties commit to “prepare, communicate and maintain” successive NDCs; to “pursue domestic mitigation measures” aimed at achieving their NDCs; and to regularly report on their emissions and on progress in implementing their NDCs. The agreement also sets the expectation that each party’s successive NDC will “represent a progression” beyond its previous one and “reflect its highest possible ambition.” The achievement by a party of its NDCs is not a legally binding obligation.
Does the agreement meet the goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius?
In agreements adopted in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancún in 2010, governments set a goal of keeping global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement reaffirms the 2 C goal, while urging efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 C. The agreement also sets two other long-term mitigation goals: first, a peaking of emissions as soon as possible (recognizing that it will take longer for developing countries); then, a goal of net greenhouse gas neutrality (“a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks”) in the second half of the century.
Analyses of the INDCs submitted by countries conclude that, while they move us closer to the 2 C goal, they are not ambitious enough to achieve it. An analysis by the Climate Action Tracker, a consortium of research institutions, concluded that the INDCs, if fully implemented, could result in warming of 2.7 C, which would be 0.9 C lower than without them.
How will the Paris Agreement get countries to increase their ambition?
The Paris Agreement provides a durable framework guiding the global effort for decades to come. The aim is to create a continuous cycle that keeps the pressure on countries to raise their ambition over time. To promote rising ambition, the agreement establishes two linked processes, each on a five-year cycle. The first process is a “global stocktake” to assess collective progress toward meeting the agreement’s long-term goals. Parties will then submit new NDCs, “informed by the outcomes of the global stocktake.”
Because the Paris Agreement is to apply post-2020, the first formal stocktake under the agreement will not take place until 2023. But under a decision accompanying the agreement, parties will jumpstart the 5-year cycle with a “facilitative dialogue” on collective progress in 2018, and the submission by 2020 of NDCs running through 2030.
How will parties be held accountable?
Accountability will be achieved primarily through an “enhanced transparency framework.” All countries are required to submit emissions inventories and the “information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving” their NDCs. These reports will be subject to an independent review by technical experts and a “facilitative, multilateral consideration of progress” by fellow governments.
Unlike the current transparency system under the UNFCCC, which sets different requirements for developed and developing countries, the new transparency framework will apply to all countries but provide “built-in flexibility” to accommodate varying national capacities. The aim is for all parties to work toward the same standards of accountability as their capacities strengthen over time.
In addition, the agreement establishes a new mechanism to “facilitate implementation and promote compliance.” This “non-adversarial” committee of experts will seek to help countries falling behind on their commitments get back on track. There are no penalties for noncompliance.
How does the agreement address climate adaptation?
Adaptation—steps to cope with the impacts of climate change—receives much greater emphasis under the Paris Agreement than previously under the UNFCCC. Just as parties will submit mitigation contributions, the agreement requires all parties, “as appropriate,” to plan and implement adaptation efforts and encourages all parties to report on their adaptation efforts and/or needs. The agreement also includes a review of adaptation progress, and the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation support, in the global stocktake to be undertaken every five years.
What does the Paris outcome do to support the efforts of developing countries?
Developed countries committed under the UNFCCC to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. As part of the Copenhagen and Cancún agreements, developed countries committed to mobilize $100 billion a year in public and private finance for developing countries by 2020.
The Paris Agreement reaffirms developed countries’ UNFCCC obligations; the COP decision accompanying the agreement extends the $100 billion-a-year goal through 2025, and calls for a new goal beyond that “from a floor of” $100 billion a year. The agreement also broadens the donor base beyond developed countries by encouraging other countries to provide support “voluntarily.” China, for instance, recently pledged $3 billion to help other developing countries.
Many national governments offered new financial pledges in Paris. Collectively, developed countries pledged $19 billion to help developing countries, including an announcement by Secretary of State John Kerry that, by 2020, the United States will double its support for adaptation efforts to $800 million a year. In another sign that developing countries are now also providing support, Vietnam pledged $1 million to the new Green Climate Fund (GCF). And for the first time, subnational governments also offered pledges, including 1 million euros from the city of Paris for the GCF, and CAD 6 million from Quebec for the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund.
Does the Paris Agreement address carbon markets?
Many countries indicated in their INDCs that they intend to use some form of international emissions trading to implementing their contributions. To ensure the environmental integrity of such transactions, the agreement requires parties to follow accounting practices avoiding the double counting of “internationally transferred mitigation outcomes.” In addition, the agreement establishes a new mechanism contributing to mitigation and supporting sustainable development, which, depending on its design, could generate or certify tradable emission units.
How did the Paris conference engage stakeholders such as state, cities and business?
Although only national governments participate directly in the negotiations, COP 21 provided many opportunities to showcase the contributions of “non-state actors” to the global climate effort. The strong display of commitments by cities, subnational governments and businesses at the New York Climate Summit in September 2014 led to the establishment at COP 20 of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda and the online NAZCA portal, where non-state actors can register their commitments. By the time of Paris, the portal listed nearly 11,000 commitments from 2,250 cities, 150 regions, 2,2025 companies, 424 investors, and 235 civil society organizations. The unprecedented showing of action and support from all levels of society was widely credited as an important factor in Paris’ success.
Is the agreement legally binding?
Yes. The agreement is considered a “treaty” under international law, but only certain provisions are legally binding. The issue of which provisions to make binding was a central concern for many countries, in particular the United States, which wanted an agreement the president could accept without seeking congressional approval. Meeting that test precluded binding emission targets and new binding financial commitments. The agreement, however, includes binding procedural commitments – such as the requirements to maintain successive NDCs and to report on progress in implementing them.
Will Congress have any say over the agreement?
Under U.S. law, a president may under certain circumstances approve U.S. participation in an international agreement without submitting it to Congress. Important considerations include whether the new agreement is implementing a prior agreement such as the UNFCCC that was ratified with the advice and consent of the Senate, and whether it is consistent with, and can be implemented on the basis of, existing U.S. law. Because the agreement does not include binding emission targets, or binding financial commitments beyond those contained in the UNFCCC, and can be implemented on the basis of existing law, the president could choose to approve it by executive action.
A C2ES legal analysis examines issues surrounding U.S. acceptance of the Paris Agreement.
Could a future president withdraw the United States from the agreement?
Under U.S. law, U.S. participation in an international agreement can be terminated by a president, acting on executive authority, or by an act of Congress, regardless of how the United States joined the agreement. The Paris Agreement specifies that a party may not withdraw from the agreement within the first three years following its entry into force.
What happens next?
To formally join the Paris Agreement, a country must first sign it, and then, after completing domestic approval procedures, must submit an “instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession” to the U.N. The agreement will be open for signature for a year starting on April 22, 2016. It establishes a “double trigger” for entry-into-force: ratification or approval by at least 55 countries accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If states ratify quickly, these conditions could be satisfied pre-2020.
In the meantime, a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement will begin meeting in May 2016 to develop a set of detailed decisions required to fully implement the agreement. At the same time, countries are expected to move forward with the domestic policies needed to implement their nationally determined contributions.
Beyond Paris: From Agreement to Action on Climate Change
Hosted by: Microsoft and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
The historic Paris Agreement represents not only the culmination of years of negotiations, but also a unique moment in which businesses, cities, and heads of state from over 150 countries gathered to make their own commitments and discuss solutions to climate change.
Please join Microsoft and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) for a lively discussion on Wednesday, April 27, 8:30-10 a.m., with senior representatives from various sectors to discuss innovative and proactive climate solutions, what Paris means four months later, and how to move from agreement to action on climate change.
Special Assistant to the President and Director of Private Sector Engagement,
The White House
Executive Vice President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Corporate Vice President, U.S. Government Affairs, Microsoft
Tamara “TJ” DiCaprio
Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Microsoft
Global Director, Environment and Energy Policy, Intel
Global Environmental Executive, Bank of America
Senior Vice President, Environmental Services and Chief Environmental Counsel
Berkshire Hathaway Energy
President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
Additional panelists may be announced.
Follow the discussion on Twitter: #MSFTClimateAction