The Paris Agreement

A new climate agreement was passed at the climate conference in Paris at the end of 2015, which obliges all states to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions for the first time. The previous distinction between industrialised and developing countries is largely eliminated as a result.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding instrument under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Climate Change Convention, UNFCCC). It contains elements for the successive reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions and is based on common principles that apply to all countries for the first time:

  • The aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit average global warming to considerably less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial period while aiming for a maximum temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius. It also aims to channel state and private financial flows into low-greenhouse-gas development and improving the capacity for adaptation to the changing climate.

  • The Agreement imposes a legally binding obligation on all states to submit and explain a nationally determined contribution every five years. While the attainment of targets remains merely politically binding in nature, the implementation of national measures, the reporting on the attainment of targets and their international verification are legally binding.

  • In addition, the Agreement defines initial regulations for the definition of reduction targets. All countries' reduction targets must be clear and comprehensible and should allow their quantification. Furthermore, the subsequent reduction target set by each country should exceed the previous target and reflect the maximum possible ambition.

    Countries that have already declared a reduction target up to 2030 can confirm this target for the period 2025 to 2030 without increasing the proposed reduction.

    It is intended to further develop the rule-based foundations of the Agreement in the years to come. Newly adopted rules will only be binding for subsequent reduction targets however.

  • Emission reductions abroad can be counted for the fulfilment of targets under the Agreement as long as they ensure environmental integrity, promote sustainable development and do not involve double counting. Article 6 of the Paris Agreement allows two types of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes (ITMOS): those from a mechanism under the Paris Agreement and those from bilateral or plurilateral agreements
  • The Agreement largely eliminates the previous strict distinction between industrialised and developing countries. The poorest countries are allowed to apply their own judgement in its implementation. In addition, the industrialised countries are urged but not obliged to assume a pioneering role by continuing to set themselves absolute macroeconomic targets. In turn, developing countries are urged to also adopt macroeconomic targets on a progressive basis. The differentiation between the countries is dynamically organised in that the reduction targets are defined nationally and should reflect the maximum possible ambition of a country. In this way, each country's reduction target is measured on the basis of its evolving climate responsibility and capacity.
  • In relation to climate change adaptation, all countries shall develop, submit and regularly update adaptation plans and measures. The timing and form of the international declaration can be determined at national level. The countries are also required to report regularly on their adaptation measures. The Agreement reinforces the existing mechanisms for the avoidance and minimisation of loss and damage, however liability and compensation were explicitly excluded.

  • In relation to climate finance, the Paris Agreement does not specify any new obligations. The industrialised countries are still obliged to support developing countries in their emission reduction and adaptation measures. For the first time, however, non-industrialised countries are also invited to support developing countries and promote climate-friendly investments. Hence, although the division of the international climate regime into industrialised and developing countries was not eliminated in the area of climate finance, it was considerably reduced. The mobilisation of investments from both public and private sources is considered a new task for all parties, however the industrialised countries should continue to assume a pioneering role in this regard. The common target for industrialised countries in relation to the mobilisation of USD 100 billion in public and private finance by 2020 was confirmed up to 2025, and it is expected that a comparable new target for the post-2025 period will be set. Accordingly, the industrialised countries are obliged to continue to report on the resources they have mobilised every two years and, if possible, provide notification of indicative quantitative and qualitative information about proposed resources in the years to come. It is planned to further develop the details of this reporting. The developing countries are urged, similarly, to report every two years not only on required and received climate-friendly investments and international climate finance, but also on finance they have mobilised themselves.

The Paris Agreement stipulates that the 55 countries which are responsible for 55 percent of global emissions must ratify this agreement for it to come into force. This quorum was reached on 5 October 2016, and the first Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement took place in Marrakesh in November 2016. Switzerland ratified the Paris Agreement on 6 October 2017. It has therefore committed to an emissions reduction target of minus 50 per cent by 2030 in comparison with 1990 levels, with partial counting of its emissions reductions abroad. In addition, Switzerland has also  declared an indicative total reduction target of minus 70 to 85 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990 levels, also with partial counting of emission reductions abroad. Under President Trump, the United States has announced that it will withdraw from the Paris Agreement at the end of 2019.This announcement still needs to be formalised, and the United States remains a Party to the Agreement for the time being.

Switzerland is well positioned to implement the Paris Agreement.

  • The reduction commitments for the post-2020 period in accordance with the Paris Agreement are implemented in the national climate legislation (full revision of the CO2 Act).

  • Regarding adaptation to climate change, Switzerland already implements most of the requirements under the Paris Agreement. Based on the existing CO2 Act, the Federal Council endorsed a two-part adaptation strategy for Switzerland. The question as to when and in what form the measures taken will be reported at international level remains open.

  • With regard to climate finance, in order to be able to make a suitable annual contribution to the USD 100 billion to be raised from 2020, Switzerland will have to increase the total resources it mobilises from public and private sources as planned. The public resources are mainly set for under the 2017-2020 framework credit for Switzerland's international cooperation and are applied to a lesser extent in the 2018-2022 framework credit for the global environment. Switzerland is currently developing a corresponding strategy for the increased targeted mobilisation of private finance for climate protection activities in developing countries..

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Last modification 15.08.2018

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