5 key points in Paris Agreement on climate change

After lengthy overnight negotiations and two weeks of touch-and-go discussions, delegates at the UN climate talks in Paris have adopted a climate-change pact. Here are five of the key points.

Limiting temperature rise to 2 C, helping poorer nations part of historic pact

After lengthy overnight negotiations and two weeks of touch-and-go discussions, delegates at the UN climate talks in Paris have adopted a climate-change pact.

The final text of the Paris Agreement — considered to be the world's first universal climate agreement — is 31 pages long. While the plenary session agreed upon the final draft Saturday afternoon, it now must be ratified.

Here are five of the agreement's key points.

1. Limit temperature rise 'well below' 2 C

The agreement includes a commitment to keep the rise in global temperatures "well below" 2 C compared to pre-industrial times, while striving to limit them even more, to 1.5 degrees.

Canadian officials agreed to this lower amount earlier this week, saying they would support a long-term goal of limiting rising average temperatures to within 1.5 C of pre-industrial levels.

Scientists consider 2 C the threshold to limit potentially catastrophic climate change.

2. First universal climate agreement

It's the world's first comprehensive climate agreement, with all countries expected to pitch in.

Under the previous emissions treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, developing countries were not mandated to reduce their emissions.​ Canada signed on to Kyoto, but later backed out in 2011.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius presented the agreement's final draft on Saturday, noting that it is legally binding.

French President Francois Hollande, right, French Foreign Minister and president of the COP21 Laurent Fabius, second right, United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres and UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon raise their hands after adopting the global agreement. (Francois Mori/Associated Press)

3. Helping poorer nations

The deal also calls on developed nations to give $100 billion annually to developing countries by 2020. This would help these poorer countries combat climate change and foster greener economies. 

The agreement promotes universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, particularly in Africa. It says this can be accomplished through greater use of renewable energy.

In his appearance at the summit last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to helping poorer nations cope with global warming.

In November, the Canadian government promised to spend $2.65 billion over five years to help developing countries reduce their emissions and adapt to climate change.

4. Publishing greenhouse gas reduction targets

Countries will be tasked with preparing, maintaining and publishing their own greenhouse gas reduction targets. The agreement says these targets should be greater than the current ones and "reflect [the] highest possible ambition."

These targets will be reviewed and revised every five years starting in 2023.

The agreement also says that each country should strive to drive down their carbon output "as soon as possible." 

5. Carbon neutral by 2050?

The deal sets the goal of a carbon-neutral world sometime after 2050 but before 2100.

This means a commitment to limiting the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally.

Scientists believe the world will have to stop emitting greenhouse gases altogether in the next half-century in order to achieve this goal.


  • A previous version of this story said that the Kyoto Protocol only included rich countries. Developing countries were included but were not mandated to reduce their emissions.
    Dec 14, 2015 12:35 PM ET

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters


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