Climate negotiations in the UN
The UN’s climate convention - United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) - serves as the framework for the global climate negotiations. Under the UNFCCC there are two major climate agreements, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. The Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997 by 192 countries making it the first internationally binding agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, the Parties to UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement.
The Parties to the UNFCCC meet once a year at the Conference of the Parties (COP). The COP is the governing body of the UNFCCC. Likewise the governing bodies of the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) and the Paris Agreement (CMP) meet at the COP. At the COP, all the decisions are made – often with media attention from all around the world. At COP21 in Paris in December 2015, Parties agreed on a new, legally binding agreement on climate change – The Paris Agreement. The agreement sets out three long term goals:
- Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
- Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.
- Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
In addition, the Agreement recognizes that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. This includes aiming at a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible with a rapid decrease of emissions subsequently, in order to achieve a balance between emissions and sinks in the second half of this century.
Completion of the Paris Agreement ”Rulebook”
The Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12th 2015 and entered into force on November 4th 2016. A range of issues with regards to the rules of the agreement were to be negotiated later on. At COP22 in 2016, these elements – the so-called “Paris Rulebook” – was agreed to be finalized no later than December 2018 at COP24. At COP24, Parties reached an agreement on the majority of elements in the Rulebook, making the Paris Agreement operational.
However, there are still a few outstanding elements in the Rulebook: The rules on market mechanisms for internationally transferable mitigation outcomes, the elements within the enhanced transparency framework related to the Parties reporting of progress in climate action and delivery of climate finance and support, and the common timeframes for the Parties NDC. As Parties to the Paris Agreement did not reach agreement on these at the last COP25 in Madrid, these negotiations continue and are expected to be finalized at the COP26 in 2021.
Key elements of the Paris Agreement are described in further detail below.
Countries are bound to contribute
The Paris Agreement obligates countries to provide so-called ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ (NDCs) which should contribute to the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The countries’ NDCs are to be updated every five years. 2020 was the first year of updating or renewing NDCs. 45 Parties, including the EU jointly with the 27 Member States met the deadline in 2020. As of 30 July 2021 86 new or updated NDCs communicated by 113 Parties were recorded in the interim NDC registry. In the run up to COP26 , more Parties are expected to submit updated or new NDCs.
In the UN climate negotiations, the EU negotiates on behalf of EU member states, including Denmark. The EU has thus presented a collective NDC on behalf of the EU, Denmark and the other EU Member States. The contribution sets a target of at least 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to the 1990 level. This is an update from the EU’s first NDC, which was 40% reduction by 2030. The EU has also set a binding target of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
The Ambition Mechanism must ensure increased efforts over time
In accordance with the Paris Agreement, the climate contributions from Parties must become increasingly ambitious over time. This should be ensured through the so-called ambition mechanism. The ambition mechanism should take stock, evaluate and inspire parties to enhance global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions end other climate action are continuously increased. Thus, the ambition mechanism is crucial in achieving climate neutrality and the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement. As it is, the countries’ collective climate contribution is not enough to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees, not to mention 1.5 degrees. Thus, it is crucial that the contributions increase over time.
As part of the ambition mechanism, a global stocktake is scheduled every five years, in which parties will assess how far the Parties collectively have come in meeting the long-term goals. In light of this assessment, the countries must update or renew their existing nationally determined contribution and commit themselves to further climate action.