The Paris Agreement and the Long-Term Challenge of Climate Change
The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015, aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. To achieve this ambitious goal, the agreement sets out a framework for global cooperation in mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, and transparency, with the aim of enhancing resilience and reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
However, the Paris Agreement is not a magic wand that can automatically solve the complex and persistent problem of climate change. Rather, it represents a historic step forward in the global response to climate change, and a recognition of the urgent need for collective action based on science, equity, and solidarity. Moreover, the Paris Agreement also acknowledges the need for a long-term perspective on climate change, as reflected in Article 4, which states that parties should aim to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.
The challenge of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, or even earlier, is daunting but necessary if we want to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise, heatwaves, droughts, floods, and biodiversity loss. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius requires a rapid and deep transformation of all sectors of the economy and society, including energy, industry, transport, buildings, land use, and agriculture. This transformation must be based on a comprehensive and integrated approach that combines ambitious targets, strong policies, innovative technologies, and social engagement.
The Paris Agreement provides a framework for accelerating the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient future, but it also requires continuous efforts to enhance its effectiveness and ambition. The first global stocktake of the progress towards the long-term goals of the agreement is scheduled for 2023, and it will be followed by subsequent stocktakes every five years. These stocktakes provide an opportunity for parties to assess the collective progress towards the long-term goals, to update their own national contributions, and to enhance the transparency and accountability of their actions.
In addition, the Paris Agreement also encourages parties to enhance their adaptation efforts, to strengthen their capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change, and to advance their support to the most vulnerable countries and communities. The adaptation goal of the agreement is to increase the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, and to foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.
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