Great expectations met? — COP 21 Paris (The Agreement and Aftermath)

Great expectations met? — COP 21 Paris (The Agreement and Aftermath)

On 12 December 2015, after two weeks and one day of fraught negotiations, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) adopted the ‘Paris Agreement’. This post examines the key outcomes of the Agreement reached, the domestic aftermath, and considers whether this ‘historic climate change deal’ can deliver on its expectations.



From the moment that Laurent Fabius, the French Foreign Minister and President of the COP21 Summit, hammered the gavel down to signal the adoption of the Paris Agreement, it was immediately and widely lauded as a ‘historic deal’. However, there have also been criticisms of the Agreement, and rueful acknowledgments that it could have gone further in securing a global low carbon future. So what has been agreed and what is legally binding and what is not?

The Paris Agreement: key outcomes

The key objectives are laid out in Article of 2 of the Agreement. They are to:

  • Hold increases in temperature to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels;
  • Increase the ability of countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development; and
  • Make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.
‘Well below 2°C’

Commentators have hailed the mere inclusion of a 1.5°C limit in the final text as a diplomatic triumph. However, as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change admitted in her oral evidence to the ECC Committee, this 1.5°C target is ‘aspirational’ at the moment.

The stark truth is even taking into account what was promised in the Intended Nationally Determined Contr

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