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Paris Agreement: What you need to know

he Paris Agreement, also referred to as the Paris Accord, is an international climate agreement that was adopted in Paris, France in December 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016.

The Paris Agreement, also referred to as the Paris Accord, is an international climate agreement that was adopted in Paris, France in December 2015 and entered into force on November 4, 2016.

The agreement brought together nearly 200 countries with a common goal of reducing emissions and limiting global warming and its impact. The agreement is regarded as a global achievement of high impact and has been hailed as “historic” as it has united most of the World’s nations.

The agreement builds on the work undertaken under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and seeks to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. What is the aim of the agreement?

The aim of the agreement is “to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit temperature increase to 1,5°C above pre-industrial levels and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the 21st Century.”

What is the status of the agreement?

The agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016, 30 days after the date on which at least 55 parties to the UNFCCC accounting in total for at least an estimated 55% of the world’s global emissions ratified it. By September 2017, of the 197 parties that signed the agreement, 160 parties had ratified the agreement.

Zimbabwe became a Party to the Paris Agreement with effect from September 6, 2017 after completing her domestic approval procedures and submitting the instrument of accession to the UN Secretary General.

Parties are now negotiating a more detailed “rulebook” which elaborates the modalities, procedures and guidelines for operationalising the agreement. The main elements of the rule book is set to be finalized in 2018.

What is each country responsible for?

Countries are referred to as “Parties” and are required to adopt green energy sources, cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, enhance carbon sinks and limit the rise of global temperatures.

Under the agreement, each Party has a self-defined individual plan known as “Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)” to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2020.

For example, Zimbabwe pledged to reduce its per capita emissions by 33% (targeting the energy sector) below the projected business as usual scenario by year 2030.

The NDCs largely determine whether the world achieves the long term goals of the Paris Agreement.

To implement the NDCs and reach the ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, technology transfer and capacity building are critical in supporting actions by developing and least developed countries.

What obligations do countries have under the agreement to reduce their emissions?

The Paris Agreement established a set of binding procedural commitments. Parties are required to “prepare, communicate and maintain” successive NDCs; to “pursue domestic mitigation measures” aimed at achieving their NDCs; and to regularly report on their emissions and on progress in implementing their NDCs. However, the achievement by a party of its NDCs is not a legally binding obligation.

How will Parties be held accountable?

Accountability will be achieved primarily through an “enhanced transparency framework.” All countries are required to submit emissions inventories and the “information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving” their NDCs. These reports will be subject to an independent review by technical experts and a “facilitative, multilateral consideration of progress” by fellow governments. The agreement establishes a “compliance mechanism” whose modalities and procedures are still under discussion.

What does the Agreement do to support the efforts of developing countries?

Developed countries committed under the UNFCCC to support mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries. As part of the Copenhagen and Cancún agreements, developed countries committed to mobilise $100 billion a year in public and private finance for developing countries by 2020. The agreement encourages parties to go beyond this figure given the economy wide transformation required to set the world on a low carbon trajectory.

What happens next?

As other countries continue to complete domestic procedures to formally accept the Paris Agreement, Parties are expected to continue moving forward with the domestic policies needed to implement their NDCs. At the same time, governments are negotiating the details of how the Paris Agreement will be implemented — for instance, accounting rules and accountability procedures. These decisions are likely to be finalized in 2018.

The Twenty-Second UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP-22), which took place in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2016, marked the first meeting of the Paris Agreement’s governing body, known as the Conference of Parties serving as the meeting of the parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA). The next major UNFCCC conference is COP 23, which will take place in Bonn, Germany, from November 6 to 17, 2017. At this conference, the second meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement will also be held.

l Climate Change Management Department: 11th Floor, Kaguvi Buidling, Cnr SV Muzenda St / Central Ave, Harare; Tel: 04-790861-3; Facebook: Climate Change Management Dept; Website: www.climatechange.org.zw