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Over the weekend, representatives from 195 countries signed an historic agreement aimed at curbing climate change.

The “Paris Agreement,” which has yet, of course, to be ratified, is being touted as a “universal” climate agreement, with 195 signatories.

Industry, policy-makers, ENGOs, and others will no doubt continue to digest the Agreement, and its implications, over the coming months (as will we!).

In the meantime, here is a brief overview of some of the key aspects of the Agreement.

The cornerstone to the Agreement is a commitment to maintain the rise in global temperatures to “well below 2° C above pre-industrial levels,” while “pursu[ing] efforts” to  keep this rise checked at 1.5° (Article 2).

Parties to the Agreement are to undertake “ambitious efforts” in meeting their various obligations and to communicate what these efforts are (Article 3).

These efforts include aiming to reach global peaking of GHG emissions “as soon as possible” (Article 4).

The Agreement has a strong focus on the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”–that is, recognizing that the needs and capacities of developing countries differ from those of more developed ones.

For example, each Party is responsible for devising, implementing, communicating, and publishing their respective “nationally determined contributions.” These contributions are tailor-made to reflect each individual country’s “highest possible ambition” in light of its own unique circumstances (Article 4).

Additionally, developed countries are to take the lead by “undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets,” while developing countries focus on mitigation efforts (Article 4).

Developed countries are also obliged to provide financial resources to developing countries so as to assist the latter in mitigation and adaptation (Article 9).

The Agreement also creates obligations regarding adaptation to (as opposed to mitigation of) climate change, with countries being required to engage in adaptation planning and implementation processes (Article 7).

It also contains provisions around loss and damage associated with climate change (Article 8), technology development (Article 10), capacity building (Article 11), climate change- related education, awareness, and public participation (Article 12), and transparency (Article 13).

On the other hand, a few elements that been hoped for in some quarters are notably missing from the Agreement. For example, there is no attempt to directly and meaningfully link climate change to human rights (Parties’ human and other rights-based obligations are only vaguely mentioned in the Preamble); the target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5° remains aspirational, not binding; and milestones such as Parties reaching peak GHG emissions are both unbinding (Parties are seemingly obliged only to “aim” to reach a global peak of emissions) and lacking an enforceable timetable (“as soon as possible”).

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