Assessing the Efficacy of the Paris Agreement: Goals, Challenges, and Global Climate Action Progress

In 2015, 195 countries agreed to endorse the Paris Agreement which sought to try and prevent the rising of the earth’s average temperature among the other effects of climate change. For the first time in history, nearly all the world’s nations committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to help combat this growing crisis. The agreement outlined three primary objectives: firstly, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global temperatures from warming more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels; secondly, to review each country’s emission reduction commitments every 5 years; and thirdly, to ensure that developing nations (most often being the most affected by climate change) have access to climate finance to mitigate the effects of climate change. These goals, along with the ambition to achieve net zero emissions, set forth a historic moment for global politics as it was legally binding for all signatories and set forth a strong and unified goal to mitigate the harm of climate change.

The central goal of the Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, considered as a ‘long-term average’ or about 20 years. However, recent measurements have reported the global temperature average being 1.52°C higher than pre-industrial levels. While this does not currently constitute a violation of the Paris Agreement, it serves as a stark warning of what lies ahead without substantial action from all signatory nations.

Many experts have again reiterated that swift and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop increasing temperatures. Yet some governments seem to still be finding their footing with regard to the importance of implementing effective climate measures. For example, in the UK, where many green policies have been delayed. Countries like Canada and Germany have received an average rating on the Climate Action Trackers for their net-zero target design elements. This indicates that their current policies and strategies for achieving net zero lack critical components.

This is concerning, as many other signatories of the Paris Agreement are rated as average or poor in their climate action plans, missing up to seven of the nine essential practices for achieving net zero or reducing carbon emissions. Despite the initial surge in climate policy momentum in 2015, such efforts have dwindled and climate policy seems to not be developing at the rate it must to counteract global warming.

An assessment by the Climate Action Tracker of the current efforts being taken by the 195 countries suggests that the objectives of the Paris Agreement are unlikely to be met. Achieving these goals would require nearly halving greenhouse gas emissions, along with additional adjustments, a target that seems unrealistic given the current rate at which governments are implementing climate-focused legislation.

Although the Paris Agreement was a significant demonstration of global unity against climate change, the actions taken by individual countries have fallen short of the commitments made, underscoring the need for increased effort and cooperation to address the worsening climate crisis effectively. It is necessary for businesses in the UK to seek advice as to what steps they can take, not just to deal with scope emissions but also to deliver new circular economy frameworks for their sectors.

© Lawrence Power 2024

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