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The Paris Agreement five years on

Five years after the Paris Agreement was adopted, SEI looks at what the historical agreement said on various issues of climate politics, where we are now — and where we need to go.

Photo: UN Climate Change / Flickr

Date published
11 December 2020

A global commitment to tackle climate change

“Today, we have all written history together,” then German environment minister Barbara Hendricks told media at the COP21 venue in Paris on the evening of 12 December 2015.

A short while earlier, French foreign minister and COP21 president Laurent Fabius slammed a green, leaf-formed gavel on the table: “The Paris Agreement is now adopted.”

Commitment to limiting global warming

The Agreement is widely called ‘historic’ because it was the first time all roughly 190 parties to the United Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pledged to limit global warming to well below 2 – and preferably 1.5 – degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. To achieve this goal, they committed to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible for the world to be climate-neutral by mid-century.

The Agreement installed a process working on a five-year cycle to increase climate ambition, with countries committing to submit increasingly ambitious national climate action plans known as ‘nationally determined contributions’ or NDCs.

The insights below from SEI researchers and experts explain how the Paris Agreement addressed some important issues in climate politics, including the changing nature of the negotiations themselves. Five years after the Agreement’s adoption, they take stock of where we are – and what needs to happen in the coming years to bring the world onto pathways that are compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement.