What Is The Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an international agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent dangerous climate change.

Major emitting countries commit to reduce their emissions in order to keep the global temperature rise well below 2°C.

The agreement is a blueprint for action on mitigation, adaptation, and finance by all countries.

History of The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015, through the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 summit in Paris, France.

The agreement contains all countries' individual pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 or 2030.

Its’ goal is to strengthen the global response to limit average global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, using pre-industrial levels as a reference point.

This target is desirable because it is the threshold at which scientists predict climate change may become inhospitable for many species.

The agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016. As of today, 195 parties have joined the agreement.

How Does The Paris Agreement Work?

The idea behind the Paris Agreement is to set a common framework for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

It works on a five-year cycle with each participating country being required to submit an updated national climate action plan. This document is called, Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)’.

NDCs of countries contain their action plans for mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation refers to reducing emissions while adaptation refers to integration measures in response to climate change.

Drafting of long-term strategies is also being encouraged to better frame the action plans.

The Agreement also provides financing to developing countries to help achieve their goals set out in the NDCs.

The Paris Agreement Summary

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty that chiefly aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides financial support to developing countries as they work towards their climate goals.

In summary, it sets out to achieve the following points:


Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Agreement calls for participating countries to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

To achieve this goal, carbon reduction targets that outline each country's commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions have been set.

While it is not specified how much countries should cut in their emissions, targets are based on the latest science and represent a fair and ambitious share of global efforts to cut emissions.

Several countries have different targets based on their national circumstances.

The United States, for example, has been constantly working on various efforts to achieve its goal. Some of these efforts are the Clean Power Plan’, and Clean Energy Innovation and Deployment Act’.

Provide a Framework for Transparency, Accountability, and the Achievement of More Ambitious Targets

The agreement also provides a transparent and flexible framework that allows countries to monitor the progress of their individual NDCs.

This system has been put in place to maintain an effective check on each nation's efforts. It also keeps them accountable for their actions.

The global stocktake is a key provision of the Paris Agreement to determine how close countries are to reaching their goals. It also helps in gauging whether more ambitious national targets need to be set. It links the implementation of NDCs with the overall objective of the Agreement.

The first global stocktake is set to happen in 2023. Every five years after that there will be another stocktake, unless otherwise decided by the Conference of Parties.

Mobilize Support for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Developing Nations

The Paris Agreement also aims to reach out to developing countries. The most vulnerable states that are likely to suffer the worst impacts of climate change are being prioritized.

It seeks to provide financial support as well as access to green technologies so they can take necessary action against climate change.

Technological and financial help from developed countries will help mobilize funding to implement the NDCs of developing countries.

Importance of The Paris Agreement

The effects of human-induced global warming have become more apparent than ever before. This has been evidenced by fast-melting glaciers, extreme weather events, rising sea levels, among other changes in our environment.

This is why it is important that world leaders act now before things get worse.

The Paris Agreement offers a substantial means of action taken by a global community in response to climate change.

It puts focus on implementing sustainable development plans that address both mitigation and adaptation efforts through national programs.

The agreement is considered a significant improvement over previous international agreements such as the ‘Kyoto Protocol’ or the ‘Copenhagen Accord’.

It will also help mobilize support from developed countries towards the needs of poor and vulnerable states that require financial aid. It is the goal of the agreement that countries work together in implementing NDCs.

In addition, it provides a transparent monitoring system for each state's contributions. This helps keep them accountable while also stimulating competition among governments in curbing greenhouse gas emissions through more ambitious plans.

Countries Involved in The Paris Agreement

As of today, a total of 195 parties have ratified the Paris Agreement according to the United Nations.

Among these countries, China, the European Union, and the United States have been tagged as the top three greenhouse gas emitters. They contribute 41.5% of total global emissions.

In its latest NDC, China commits to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. It also aims to lower carbon dioxide emissions by over 65% per unit of GDP based on the 2005 level. It also helps to increase the use of non-fossil fuels to around 25%.

The European Union and its Member States commit to a binding target of a net domestic reduction of at least 55% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.

The United States aims to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50–52% below 2005 levels in 2030. It also has set a goal to reach 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by the year 2035.

Developing countries like Pakistan also intend to shift to 60% renewable energy, and 30% electrical vehicles by 2030. It hopes to completely ban imported coal according to its NDC issued in October 2021.

Zimbabwe, which is among the countries with the least greenhouse gas emissions, aims to reduce 40% of its greenhouse gas emissions per capita by the year 2030 which is conditional on international support.

It is important to note that countries employ different strategies in meeting their NDCs. Developing countries usually opt to shift from a dependency on carbon-based energy sources into one that is more environmentally friendly.

Meanwhile, developed countries have started moving towards renewable energy resources as the primary power source while incentivizing energy conservation.

Are We On Track for Paris Agreement Goals?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres,

"We are still significantly off-schedule to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This year has seen fossil fuel emissions bounce back, greenhouse gas concentrations continuing to rise and severe human-enhanced weather events that have affected health, lives and livelihoods on every continent. Unless there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, limiting warming to 1.5°C will be impossible, with catastrophic consequences for people and the planet on which we depend."

He adds how this year is a critical year for climate action. The assessment of the NDCs is that it will not be enough to reach the goal set by the Paris Agreement.

Current Trend

Reports from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) show that emissions have reached a new record with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average. This trend has continued in 2021.

Despite the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19, no discernible impact on the level of greenhouse gasses has been observed.

Meanwhile, the global average surface temperature from 2017-2021 has been seen as the warmest on record. It has reached an estimate of 1.06°C to 1.26°C above pre-industrial levels.

Strengthening Efforts

However, according to the latest report from the ‘Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’ (IPCC), the goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees °C is still attainable. However, this can only be done with ambitious emissions cuts.

The ‘State of Climate Action 2021’ reports the performance in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. It also details the transformations needed to do so.

Additionally, it summarizes how none of the 40 indicators of the Paris Agreement has been met to reach the 2030 targets.

On the bright side, the efforts that have been made in the past are putting us in the right direction at a promising, albeit insufficient, pace.

More than ever, aggressive efforts need to be conducted to achieve the goals.

For instance, according to a report from World Resources Institute and Climate Works Foundation and Climate Action Tracker, the world needs to go at a faster pace in the use of renewables in electricity generation, phase out coal, transition away from fossil fuels, and expedite the uptake of electric vehicles.

These strategies will require significant financial investments, technology transfer, and capacity-building but they will be worth it.

Nevertheless, as long as leaders from all levels of government continue to prioritize climate action and the right plans are made, climate change will be mitigated.

Final Thoughts

Severe impacts of climate change have devastated the planet from extreme weather events.

The Paris Agreement has been set in place to mitigate these impacts. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. It also aims to increase financial support for developing countries who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

This global agreement aims to address these challenges and keep the earth safe for generations to come. It hopes to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change in the context of sustainable development.

Additionally, it seeks to strengthen transparency guidelines and accountability protocols. This is done by requiring signatories to submit national reports on their efforts and actions taken towards achieving its goals.

By being committed to its goals through NDCs, countries are working together towards mitigating climate change little by little.

However, it also has its limitations as countries have different capacities when it comes to meeting their NDCs. There is still a gap between what has been promised and what is needed.

Countries need to be serious with their commitments by the strategies and solutions imposed by the IPCC to be on track with goals.

It is important for everyone to work together towards climate action.

This way, despite its limitations, the Paris Agreement will continue to be a force that unites all people in fighting climate change.


1. What is the IPCC?

IPCC stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is an established group of experts who are tasked to do scientific assessments of climate change, its causes, what can be done about it, and how it affects the planet.

2. What are NDCs?

NDCs stand for Nationally Determined Contributions which are voluntary goals that each country sets to achieve certain emission cuts by a certain target year. It details how a country envisions achieving its goals in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and how it will provide support, financial or otherwise, to developing countries with lower capacities.

3. How can we stay updated?

The UN website is a good place to start as well as the Climate Action Tracker official site.

4. What are the limitations of the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement has its limitations because not all countries have commitments to their NDCs. Also, even if some nations try to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, it does not guarantee that we will be on track with achieving our goals as there still exists a gap between what is needed and what has been committed.

5. What can we do?

As an individual, you can start by staying updated about climate change and taking part in discussions about ways to mitigate carbon emissions. You can also take actions like recycling and conserving energy. If you are an organization, you can work with other groups in your area to promote the use of renewable sources of energy. You can also advocate for green concepts in your community.

Attend Our Next Webinar

Attend Our Next Webinar

Join our next Sustainable Investing 101 webinar, get our favorite DIY options, and walk through how we build our portfolios.

Watch Now
Get Our Newsletter

Get Our Newsletter

Go a level deeper with us and investigate the potential impacts of climate change on investments like your retirement account.

Talk To A Human

Talk To A Human

Joining a new investment service can be intimidating. We’re here for you. Click below to email us a question or book a quick call.

Ask a Question


Sustainable Investing Topics

View our list of some topics below.