Paris Agreement: what you need to know about it

 In Enviroment

In recent weeks there have been rumors about a probable withdrawal of United States from the Paris Agreement, the first worldwide pact on the global climate.

This choice depends entirely on Donald Trump, new President in office, who has the future of our planet virtually in his hands.

Better than previous Kyoto Protocol (1997), this agreement represents a real turning point in the road towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and spreading a low-carbon economy, bringing all nations together  to face the challenges and risks  posed by climate change.

But what are the countries that have ratified the pact? And what are the real aims of the Paris Agreement Cop21?

What is the Paris Agreement

First of all, the Paris Agreement is the first international agreement on climate change and its effects within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At the conclusion of Cop21 in Paris (December 2015), all the 195 UNFCCC participating states have decided to draw up a pact aimed to reducing global warming, restricting greenhouse gas emissions and offset the adverse effects of climate change on people and environment.

This agreement doesn’t set strict rules on how to achieve these goals, but allows each country to choose how to lower its emissions.

All member states involved agreed to meet every five years – the first time in 2023 – to report on their work and goals, but also to set new aims on the basis of the new scientific knowledge acquired.

Beyond interventions in the industrial sector, aimed at replacing fossil fuel with sustainable energy, the agreement draws great attention to ecosystems and biodiversity, promoting careful management of the territory, preserving forest and improving agriculture.

All member states agreed that a healthy environment would protect people from the bad effects of climate changing.

What are the aims of Paris Agreement

The aims set by all the 195 UNFCCC states are clearly defined in the Paris Agreement treaty.

Specifically, Article 2 sets out all the goals of the future environmental (and not) policies of the participating members.

The main purposes are trying to limit the rise in global average temperature to below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels and work towards limiting this increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as these actions would greatly reduce the adverse effects of climate change in our world.

Beyond this, the agreement states that countries commit themselves to develop their ability to adapt to climate changes and promote the activities that limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The ultimate aim is to build a global economy based on low greenhouse gas emissions, slowly eliminating fossil fuels and helping developing countries to improve their access to electricity from renewable resources.

Who signed the Paris Agreement

As we have already said, the Paris Agreement treaty was accepted at the end of Cop21 in Paris by all the 195 participating countries.

But this was just the beginning.

The agreement was officially opened to signatures from 21 April 2016 to 21 April 2017: during this year 194 world states and European Union signed with the intentions of reducing carbon output as soon as possible and limiting global warming.

The first two countries that decided to sign the pact were China and United States, which together represent at least 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Later on India, another country with a large emission of polluting substances into the atmosphere, also joined them.

In the end, the Paris Agreement was signed by all the countries of the UNFCCC, except only three members: Holy See (an ‘observer state’ that can sign the pact only if it becomes a full member), Nicaragua and Syria.

Why United States want to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

Last June Donald Trump announced the likely withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement.

Already during the electoral campaign the new President declared the intention to exit the agreement, arguing that this would help the fossil fuel industry.

However, it should be noted that Article 28 states that the first effective withdrawal may not take place before 4 November 2020, four years after its official entry into force.

Until the actual withdrawal the United States are still required to comply with their obligations.

The decision has obviously divided the public: environmentalists and scientists are clearly in favor of actions to protect the environment and limit global warming, while Donald Trump’s supporters tend to dampen the real effects of pollution by supporting the need to stimulate the fossil fuel industry rather than the renewable energy one.

However the real withdrawal has not yet been announced. Will this decision effect the future of our planet?

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