Conclusions of COP21. The Paris Agreement

For the first time, all the countries have made a commitment to the common objective of limiting greenhouse gas emissions

COP is the acronym for Conference of the Parties, an event involving all the countries in the world that has been held since 1995 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to seek an agreement that will slow the negative consequences of climate change; at the 21st COP, which concluded last Saturday, 12 December, the 196 states in attendance (195 countries plus the European Union) adopted the Paris Agreement; the agreement must be ratified by all the countries between April 2016 and April 2017 at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, and it is scheduled to come into force in 2020. 

Is it a good agreement?Laurent Fabius. UN Photo Mark Garten

Yes, because, for the first time, all the countries have made a commitment to the common objective of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Positive aspects: although it is not as ambitious as many would have liked, the agreement sets a clear path towards reducing emissions.

Negative aspects: carbon pricing has not been implemented, the mitigation and reduction targets are not legally binding, and there are no penalties for breach. 

The document structure. What has been agreed

The document that emerged from COP21 comprises two parts:

The first part, the “Decision”, establishes the work that the countries must do pre-2020.

The "Paris Agreement", which is legally binding and will come into force in 2020. 

Below are some of the key issues agreed upon at COP21: 


The agreement provides for keeping the increase in global average temperatures well below 2°C, and continuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5°C.The latter is a very ambitious goal and one of the great achievements of the agreement

A long-term emission reduction horizon is established by stating that, to fulfil the agreed temperature target, "global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions" should be reached "as soon as possible". 

Binding nature

The Agreement is binding since it has been configured as an annex to the Decision of the COP, which was approved and ratified by all governments that are party to it. 


INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) are the main tool for implementing the agreement. They are mitigating goals (mainly the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions) adopted voluntarily by each country. 

Tools will be developed to facilitate fulfilment of the INDCs, but only as a guidance:

Individual stocktake: to maintain the level of ambition, countries must communicate their progress every five years, and must step up their commitment at each stocktake.

Global stocktake: Collective achievements will be reviewed in a global stocktake every five years, commencing in 2023. The findings will serve as a guide for the development of the countries' successive contributions.

Compliance: an adaptation committee has been established to analyse and facilitate implementation and compliance, but without the power to impose sanctions. 

Market mechanismsUN Photo Mark Garten2

Emission reductions will be tradeable (internationally transferred mitigation outcomes) and, under a suitable accounting and transparency framework, may lay the foundation for an international market in CO₂.

The importance of carbon pricing as a tool for incentivising emission reduction activities has been recognised. 


The developed countries must contribute funds (100 billion dollars per year committed from 2020) and the amount of funds mobilised must increase progressively. 


A transparency framework common to all countries has been created which will include information on emissions and sinks (carbon sinks), and also on adaptation, funding, technology transfer and capacity building.