2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21)


The Paris Conference or COP21

COP21 or the 21st Conference of Parties led to a new international climate agreement, the Paris Agreement, which applies in every country. It aims to limit global warming to 1.5-2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, in line with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This agreement, which entered into force on 4 November 2016, is historic due to its universality (only Iran, Libya and Yemen have not ratified it) and the strength of the commitments and objectives it includes.

As host and chair of COP21, France committed to supporting a multilateral negotiations process and listening to all stakeholders to reach an agreement that is:

  • universal and legally binding,
  • fair and differentiated,
  • sustainable and dynamic.

A universal agreement applicable to all

The 198 negotiating Parties committed to drawing up long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies. This is the first time that a universal agreement was reached in the fight against climate change.

Certain legally binding rules will apply to the States Parties, such as the obligation for developed countries to provide developing countries with financial support to enable them to implement the agreement.

A fair and differentiated agreement

In response to the climate challenge, the agreement recognizes that States have common but differentiated responsibilities, depending on respective capabilities and different national circumstances.

It takes into account the level of development and the specific needs of particularly vulnerable countries, for example. Beyond making financial commitments, industrialized countries need to facilitate technology transfers, and more generally, adapt to a low-carbon economy.

In terms of transparency, a system for tracking national commitments, which is slightly flexible for developing countries, has also kept track of everyone’s efforts.

A sustainable and dynamic agreement

The Action Agenda brings together a variety of stakeholders on sector-based priorities by taking a proactive approach in order to ensure more ambitious progress.

The purpose of the agreement is to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to ensure that efforts are pursued to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. To achieve this, it stipulates that all countries shall review their contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years. Every new nationally determined contribution will need to be more ambitious than the last.

The Parties committed to reaching a global peak in greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, in order to strike a balance between emissions and their offsets in the second half of the century.

A financial component to ensure international solidarity with the most vulnerable countries

Financing is crucial to support emerging countries and promote the transition towards low-carbon economies. The agreement stipulates that $100 billion, from public and private sources, must be mobilized each year from 2020 to 2025 to fund projects and help developing countries implement their greenhouse gas emission reductions and adapt to the impacts of climate change (e.g. rising sea levels and drought).

This funding should gradually increase and some developing countries will also be able to become donors, on a voluntary basis, to help the poorest countries.

How did States contribute to COP21?

Ahead of COP21, each country had to prepare and publish its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). This mechanism was new and allowed each State involved to participate in a universal effort through a concrete working plan with 2 key focuses:

  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2025-2030,
  • adapting to or reducing vulnerability to climate change.

The contributions were published as and when they were received on the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). On 22 November 2015, a week before the conference, 170 countries, accounting for over 90% of emissions, had published their INDCs. Each contribution had to provide quantifiable data, the year of reference, the implementation calendar and the methodologies used for measuring greenhouse gas emissions.
All countries took part and several of them (Cabo Verde, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu) committed to a 100% renewable transition by 2030.

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Updated: December 2023