A new Climate Change Agreement – December 2015

After two long weeks of negotiations the Paris agreement was finally approved on the evening of Saturday 12 December 2015 after four years of negotiations which will replace  the Kyoto Protocol for the period after 2020.

The COP21 outcome is made of two parts, both legally-binding:  the COP Decision (pages 1-20) that sets out the process of how to put the agreement into effect and the Agreement itself (pages 21-32) setting out the provisions for global action on climate change.

187 countries, including all major economies, have submitted national emissions reduction plans ahead of COP21, representing 98.6% of total global emissions. These post-2020 national plans –Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) - will be turned into NDCs from 2020 onwards when the Paris agreement starts being implemented.

  • Europe still taking the lead

The EU has declared the strongest target in terms of absolute emission reduction which will be -40% greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.

The US target is to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% in 2025 from 2005 levels, but the specific means the administration proposed to get there would only yield about half that. And some such as the Clean Power Act is being challenged under the Supreme Court of Justice.

The Chinese government pledged to peak its emissions “around 2030” and to increase “non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20%” by 2030.

  • Assessing the achievements

In the Paris Agreement context, “transparency” corresponds to the requirements that are needed to hold countries accountable for their commitments so that their efforts can be assessed.  Before Paris there were two parallel transparency processes: one for developed countries, and a less stringent one for developing countries.  The Paris Agreement merged them in a single system requiring all countries to work towards the same standards of transparency and accountability.

  • Efforts on all sides?

The Agreement makes no reference to countries having to do comparable efforts. At best Article 4 invites countries to do mitigation efforts that represent the highest possible ambition taking into account CBDRs and their national circumstances.


  • Many questions still open

Many questions are still to be answered after the agreement:  Will it set the right signals for investors? Will there be a US ratification of the Paris Agreement without congressional approval? What implications will it have for the EU’s 2030 climate target? Will there be a mechanism to address the fact that the EU has higher costs for industry that can result in investment and carbon leakage? Will there be initiatives to develop international carbon markets?

Industrial sectors like the mining industry that are in direct competition worldwide are very concerned that the level playing field is still not existing and that the Paris agreement is still not addressing it.