Last week the leaders of almost 200 nations came together in Paris for the 21st UNFCCC Conference of Parties. On Saturday, 12 December 2015 these leaders reached an agreement that will signal the end of the use of fossil fuels, with the aim of rapidly replacing coal, oil and gas with clean energy sources worldwide.

A Strong, Universal Agreement

All nations are apart of the agreement and the majority have contributed positively to the agreement

The governing leaders of the world have acknowledged that climate change is a global problem which is happening faster and at a greater, more devastating impact than first thought. To have all the world’s nations, regardless of their size or economy, be apart of the agreement is a huge achievement.

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A few of the 50 000 negotiators that attend the 12 day conference in Paris. Credit: UNFCCC

The 1.5˚C Target

Previously agreements had aimed to limit a global temperature rise to 2˚C, for the first time the agreement states that countries must:

Do everything possible to stay below 1.5°C of global warming

 A limit of 1.5˚C warming is critical for many vulnerable nations, such as the Pacific Islands, and fragile ecosystems, especially the world’s coral reefs.

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1.5˚C is a challenging target that will require a serious global effort to reduce emissions and increase renewable energy resources. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been tasked with looking at new pathways for limiting global warming to 1.5˚C, this work will provide guidance for nations to strengthen their emission reduction targets in the future.

 Target Reviews

How will we keep track of emissions?

Most nations submitted pledges to reduce their emissions by 2030, however these targets are insufficient to meet the global long-term goals and will need to be increased. These targets will be continually reviewed and strengthened every five years starting in 2023, to demonstrate how the nations plan to further reduce their emissions.

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The Bad News 

Australia is still bringing up the rear when it comes to acting on climate change, we rank last of the OECD countries and third last of all developed countries. Australia’s lack of action over the last several years means that we have a long way before we catch up and adapt to a cleaner energy system.

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Only Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia are rank worse than Australia when it comes to climate action from developed nations. Credit: Climate Council

Many poor and developing countries, particularly those vulnerable to climate change (from an increase in global temperature or an increase in sea level) will still suffer. The funding pledged by developed nations is part of the legal requirement of the agreement but is not enough to help developing nations adapt to the severe impacts of climate change and invest in renewable or clean energy resources.

The Paris agreement is only the beginning of the battle against climate change, these commitments still need to be put into action. The emission reduction targets pledge by the world’s nations will not keep warming below 1.5˚C, countries must adhere to their pledges and the targets will need to be increased over time to decrease GHG if we are to limit warming to 2˚C.

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It is going to require a lot of action to to transition to a low-emission future. Credit: UNFCCC

You can read the signed Paris agreement on the UNFCCC’s website.