At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, 197 Parties, including Ireland and the EU, agreed the first universal, legally binding climate deal. The Agreement sets out a global action plan to avoid the adverse effects of climate change by limiting global warming to below 2˚C. The EU ratified the Agreement on 5 October 2016 after approval by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The Irish government formally ratified the Agreement on 27 October. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016.
From 30 November to 13 December 2015, climate negotiators met in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties, ‘COP21’, of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was one of the three Conventions adopted at the first UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. Under the Convention, Parties have a general commitment to address climate change, to adapt to its effects and to report on action taken. The aim of the COP21 was to produce the first legally binding and universal agreement on climate in the 23 years of negotiations, to mitigate global warming and the negative effects of climate change.
The Agreement was first signed by 175 Parties on 22 April 2016, with 20 further Parties pledging their signatures soon afterwards. Ireland was among the signatories. The further need for ratification allows time for the domestic approval of the Agreement and the necessary legislation to give the Agreement effect. The Paris Agreement required ratification by at least 55 Parties, who between them account for at least 55% of total global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, in order to come into effect. The ratification of the Agreement by the EU on 5 October 2016 pushed the number of Parties beyond the required minimum, triggering the entry into force of the Agreement 30 days later, on 4 November.
Mitigation: Reducing GHG emissions
- A long term goal of keeping the increase in average global temperature well below 2˚C above the pre-industrial level. This level is determined according to the average global temperature of 13.5˚C prior to the Industrial Revolution. The aim is to limit the increase to 1.5˚C in order to significantly reduce risks associated with global warming.
- A need for global GHG emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that it will take longer for developing countries.
- An undertaking of rapid reductions thereafter, in accordance with the best available science.
Transparency and global stocktaking
- A meeting every 5 years to set more ambitious targets as required by the latest scientific developments.
- A commitment to report on the implementation of targets.
- A transparency and accountability system to track progress towards the long-term goal of limiting the increase in average global temperature.
- A commitment to strengthening societies’ ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.
- A commitment to provide continued and enhanced international support for climate adaptation strategies in developing countries.
Loss and damage
- An effort towards averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage associated with the negative effects of climate change.
- An effort to cooperate and enhance the understanding, action and support in areas such as early warning systems, emergency preparation and risk insurance.
Role of cities, regions, local authorities
The Agreement recognises the role of non-Party stakeholders, such as subnational authorities, civil society and the private sector, in addressing climate change. These actors are invited to:
- Scale up their efforts and support actions to reduce GHG emissions;
- Build resilience and decrease vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change;
- Uphold and promote regional and international cooperation.
Industrialised and economically developed countries committed to:
- Continue to support climate action to reduce GHG emissions and build resilience to the impact of climate change in developing countries;
- Continue the collective goal of mobilising 100 billion US dollars per year from the public and private sector by 2020, as agreed at the COP15 summit in Copenhagen in 2009, and to extend this to 2025, with a higher goal to be set thereafter.
Ratification and Entry into Force
Ireland’s ratification of the Paris Agreement was discussed in Dáil Éireann on 27 October 2016, after which its ratification was approved. Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten TD, welcomed the ratification, which was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan TD.
The Paris Agreement requires all Parties to advance their best efforts through their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), which publicly outline climate actions they intend to take under the Agreement. Ireland will contribute to the Agreement through the INDC tabled by the EU on behalf of its Member States, which commits to a reduction of 40% in EU-wide GHG emissions by 2030, compared with 1990.
The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November and comes in advance of the next United Nations climate change conference, which will take place in Marrakech from 7-18 November 2016.