Paris Climate Accord

Lena Tarhuni
December 2, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016

A Turning Point

Fig. 1: Global Consumption of Renewable Energy. [4] (Courtesy of British Petroleum)

Discussion for the Paris Climate Agreement began in December of 2015 at the Conference of Parties (COP21). [1] Much like at previous Conferences of Parties where the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Agreements were implemented, developing resilience to climate change was indicated as a top priority. The goal at COP21 was to formulate an agreement that would reduce global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. [2] Currently, the world is producing carbon emissions at a rate three times higher than the amount necessary to achieve this reduction in temperature. [3]

The agreement, recognized as the first ever universal climate deal, was signed by 195 countries and went into effect on November 4th, 2016. [2] The large-scale support and quick turnover in implementing the agreement convey the importance of this deal as a turning point in the approach to climate change.

Aims of the Agreement

  1. Limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (unofficially 1.5 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial times and reach a peak for carbon emission levels in the near future. [1]

  2. Increase the fluidity of nations in dealing with the variance in climate change and continuing to lower greenhouse gas emissions in a manner that does not compromise food production. [2]

  3. Create a stable financial pathway, particularly for developing countries, in factors related to fulfilling this clean energy development. [2]

Reduction of Carbon Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions are generally attributed to the burning of fossil fuels for energy in the form of coal, natural gas, petroleum-based fuel, and more. According to the 2015 BP Statistical Review, global energy consumption increased by 1.0%- far below the 10 year expected average of 1.9%. Although this is below average, the energy is still derived from non-clean energy sources, such as oil, which in 2015 accounted for 32.9% of global energy consumption. [4]

One of the main action items to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement is to reduce carbon emissions by 40-70% by 2050 and to become carbon-neutral by 2100. [2] In order to achieve the temperature related aim, nearly a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves, and 80% of coal reserves would need to be untouched until 2050. [3] Overall there is a necessity to shift towards clean energy (ex.renewable energy sources). Figs. 1 and 2 indicate the current differences between fossil fuel energy source consumption and clean energy source consumption. [4] The comparison of consumption levels reveal that there is a significant need to increase that of renewable energy and reduce those of oil. Other fossil fuel-related energy sources have similar trends to that of oil.

Fig. 2: Global Consumption of. [4] (Courtesy of British Petroleum)

Implementation of the Agreement

As part of the agreement, all nations are responsible for formulating and implementing climate change policies that would achieve the aims of the agreement. [1] Every 5 years, the nations will meet and discuss how they can strengthen their targets relative to shifts in the climate situation. Further, each nation will address their progress in tackling the issues and how they plan to strengthen their policies in dealing with various oncoming climate states. The agreement as a whole is based on transparency and accountability. It is the responsibility of each nation to contribute and do their part and with that track their progress toward the long-term goals. While signing this agreement, the cooperation agreed upon in the international community conveys the work towards reducing vulnerability to climate change. [2]

Developing Countries and Energy Consumption

Regions like Paris have been able to create goals to reduce carbon emissions by 75% and begin implementing programs for consumption through renewable and recyclable energy sources. These sources include those relating to geothermal energy, solar panels, and waste energy. [5] While nations like France are making changes in their methods of energy consumption, it is more underdeveloped nations that are struggling to do the same. In fact, underdeveloped countries contribute to more than half of the use of carbon emitting energy sources. [4] Due to their slower clean energy development and less financial flexibility they have more difficulty with innovating and scaling out these changes.

To help alleviate this situation, the treaty contains an action item for the International community to support underdeveloped nations in reacting and adapting to the impacts of climate change in sustainable ways. When it comes to financial stability, an unwritten part of the Paris Agreement is to raise $100 billion dollars by 2020. [2] This will allow for more financial flexibility and scaleability of projects for the the nations with weak economies, and a lack of research and development.


The Paris Climate Accord is a symbol of a unified front to combat the adverse effects of climate change. Looking ahead, this agreement will require significant monetary and policy commitment. But, if each country follows through with their own responsibilities, this agreement may be able to achieve its expected global impact.

© Lena Tarhuni. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "The Paris Protocol - A Blueprint for Tackling Global Climate Change Beyond 2020," European Commission, COM(2015) 81, 4 Mar 15.

[2] T. Bazley, "The Paris Climate Agreement and Why it Matters," AlJazeera, 4 Nov 16.

[3] C. McGlade and P. Ekins, "The Geographical Distribution of Fossil Fuels Unused When Limiting Global Warming to 2℃," Nature 517, 187 (2015).

[4] BP Statistical Review of World Energy, British Petroleum, June 2016.

[5] "Paris Climate Energy and Action Plan," City of Paris Town Council, 11 Dec 12.