Paris climate summit breakthrough delivers legally-binding global agreement

Press release 2015-12-15 at 11:08

Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment: ”This is a long-anticipated, necessary and pivotal decision.”

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On Saturday evening, a new, comprehensive and legally binding climate agreement was concluded at the Paris climate summit, which will be implemented from 2020 onwards. This agreement marks the first time when nearly all the countries of the world have indicated their willingness to take action to tackle climate change.

”This is a long-anticipated, necessary and pivotal decision. The world is now ready for something that previously was not possible. The agreement may not be perfect but it is a historic document that will define the coming decades,” Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, commented.

The agreement is intended to have a long-term focus and supplements the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Towards a emission neutral world post-2050

Under the Paris climate agreement, the world’s carbon emissions and sinks must be equal by the latter half of the 21st century. Under the measures, the rise in global mean temperature must be limited to well below two degrees Celsius, with efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The latter target was particularly pursued by countries most vulnerable to climate change as it would reduce the risks of climate change considerably.

“Both policies send an important signal to the world. The decisions on emission neutrality and the reduction target could have been stronger and include a year by which the targets are to be achieved. However, the formulation, as it now stands, communicates clearly that we are all moving towards a low carbon culture together. Businesses, investors, cities and citizens alike would do well to reflect on this in all their future decision making.

In addition to emission reduction targets, the agreement also sets a long-term target to focus on adaptation opportunities. This means that adaptation is now considered equally important to mitigation.

Strict division into two camps dismantled

The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change divides the world into developing and developed countries, with obligations placed on the developed countries only. The world has changed since then, with China now responsible for a fifth of the world’s total emissions and many countries then designated as developing countries now ranking among the richest in the world. One of the key challenges for the negotiations in Paris was removing this dichotomy to ensure that the agreement would more accurately reflect the signatories’ level of both emissions and development.

The end result is a compromise. In future, all countries are required to plan and implement emission reductions and to report on them openly and transparently. All measures are nationally determined and adapted to the appropriate level of development. There is also a requirement for stricter measures over time. All countries are required to report on their emissions and their progress towards the targets. It was in this area that the strict division was dismantled.

Under the agreement, developing countries are not required to finance climate action in the world’s poorest countries. Concessions have also been made in the reporting requirements for developing countries. Developed countries have an obligation to support them in this undertaking.

Climate action under five-year review

All together 186 countries have submitted plans detailing how they will reduce emissions post-2020. These plans cover more than 95% of the world’s total emissions. There have been suggestions that the pledges are not sufficient to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

As such, the five-year global reviews, during which the signatories are committed to draft and submit new undertakings, promoted by the EU and Finland, are crucial to ensure the dynamism of the agreement. The developed countries  are undertaking economy-wide emission reduction targets  and other countries are also working towards the same. In addition to the emission reduction targets, the development of the climate funding and national adaptation efforts will be subject to scrutiny every five years.

The climate actions will be recorded in a public register maintained by the secretariat. The adequacy of the signatories’ climate policies will be evaluated for the first time already before the entry into force of the new agreement in 2018.

Opportunities for comparing and assessing emission reduction commitments will also be improved. A specialist working group will determine the level of data countries are required to submit. The agreement additionally requires all signatories to undertake more detailed reporting on their emissions, which will facilitate the monitoring of their progress.

“We have known for some time that the emission targets under the Paris agreement will not be binding in the international law. Many countries, including the United States and India, were not prepared for this undertaking. However, all countries are required to implement actions to meet the targets they have submitted,” Finland’s chief negotiator Harri Laurikka commented.

Funding for developing countries retained and expanded

The climate funding available to developing countries forms a key part of the Paris agreement. It comprises both public and private funds. Developed countries have pledged to continue the funding post-2020 and to take a leading role in funding climate action. A variety of different sources, channels and methods are available. The funding amounts to USD 100 BN per year between 2020 and 2025 but new countries have been added to the list of those providing the funds. The funding target will be reviewed in 2025.

Small island states and the world’s least developed countries have insisted that damage and losses resulting from climate change must be better addressed. Under the new agreement the Loss and damage mechanism, established in Warsaw in 2013, will remain in place after 2020. Developing countries will not be entitled to compensation under loss and damage proceedings.

Joint action to reduce emissions

The agreement also incorporates an opportunity for countries to reduce their emissions through cooperation with others, including emissions trading. Under these arrangements it is important to avoid double counting, under which emission reductions are recorded against both countries. The agreement establishes a new emissions trading mechanism. The mechanism is similar to the existing mechanisms established in the Kyoto Protocol and it is proposed that the terms are negotiated at the next summit next year. The EU’s own emissions trading system is to remain unchanged.

A comprehensive agreement to benefit Finland

All large industrial countries and emitters are committed to the agreement. In order for the agreement to come into force, it is required that at least 55 Parties accounting in total for 55 per cent of the world’s total emissions ratify it. This comprehensive agreement is set to improve the competitiveness of Europe’s manufacturing sector.

“This agreement will help to protect existing manufacturing jobs in Finland and elsewhere, while the implementation of new measures to tackle climate change represent a significant growth opportunity for clean technology companies. This is an opportunity that Finland, too, must seize,” Tiilikainen added.

The EU and Finland have played a key role in the negotiations. The EU led the way in setting its own emission reduction targets well in advance and by actively contributing to the creation of a high ambition coalition of countries pursuing ambitious climate policies.

“Thanks to French diplomacy and the EU’s highly proactive stance, Paris was a success. These skills will be very much in demand in the future as the work is by no means done. Paris represents a turning point and the coming years will the test of how effective this agreement is,” Kimmo Tiilikainen added.

During the Paris summit, Tiilikainen, the Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, represented the EU in negotiations on forestry and the respective responsibilities of the participating countries.

“What also matters for Finland is that forests are recognised as a carbon sink under the agreement.

“Climate change affects all humanity And that is why I am delighted to see that the preamble to the agreement acknowledges human rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights as well as generational fairness and indigenous peoples.”

The next Conference of the Parties will be held in Marrakech, Morocco, in November 2016.

Further information

Ministerial interview requests:

Jyrki Peisa, Special Advisor, Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, tel: +358 50 364 083, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi

Agreement and negotiation process-related matters:

Harri Laurikka, Chief Negotiator, Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment, tel: +358 295 250 156, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi

Financing-related matters:

Folke Sundman, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tel: +358 295 351 035, firstname.lastname@formin.fi and

Outi Honkatukia, Ministry of Finance, tel: +358 40 485 7346, firstname.lastname@vm.fi

Forestry-related matters: Heikki Granholm, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel: +358 40 077 4298, firstname.lastname@mmm.fi

Emissions trading-related matters: Karoliina Anttonen, Ministry of Employment and the Economy, tel: +358 50 396 0086, firstname.lastname@tem.fi

Adaptation and loss and damage-related matters: Johanna Pietikäinen, p. +358 40 480 6064, firstname.lastname@formin.fi

Matters relating to reporting requirements and emissions reduction transparency:
Riitta Pipatti, Statistics Finland, tel: +358 50 500 5247, firstname.lastname@tilastokeskus.fi

Riikka Lamminmäki, Communications Specialist, Ministry of the Environment, tel: +358 50 524 5269, firstname.lastname@ymparisto.fi