Climate Change

The Paris Agreement

The June 2017 announcement that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is short-sighted and reduces the ability of the U.S. government to provide global leadership on climate change. Since the Withdrawal Announcement, more than 1,200 universities, colleges, investors, businesses, mayors, and governors from around the country have declared in unison that they are still part of the Paris agreement and have sent a letter to the United Nations to underline their commitment to continue to address carbon emissions.

For more on the Conservancy’s thoughts on that decision, read our President's blog.

The central challenge to people and places around the globe is climate change. The costs of inaction are high, and smart solutions can propel economic opportunity, innovation, and greater energy reliability—goals that all Americans can embrace.” Read our full statement following the U.S. election.

Here are the top things you should know about the Paris Agreement – and what it means for you. Sign the Pledge and call on world leaders to make good on their promises for climate action.

  1. The world as a whole agreed on a path forward. 196 nations signed the Paris Agreement, the first time — since climate change rocketed to the top of the list of global issues — that the world has agreed on a path forward.
  2. The Paris Agreement is a turning point. The agreement “signals the turning point in the road to a low-carbon economy, a road paved by continued innovation in the technology, energy, finance, and conservation sectors,” said Andrew Deutz, the Conservancy's director of international government relations.
  3. The Paris Agreement was years in the making. When negotiations to address climate change failed in 2009, countries walked away with a better sense of how to make an agreement work. Using past failures as a guide helped launch a “bottoms up” approach in which each country set its own goals, enabling the Paris agreement to work for everyone — the best way to ensure change. 
  4. The deal asks any nation signing it, of which there were 196, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to regularly increase their ambitions. The agreement requires that ratifying nations “peak” their greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and pursue the highest possible ambition that each country can achieve.
  5. Countries will aim to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, and for the first time to pursue efforts to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C. The nations involved in COP 21 agreed upon and required that they would all work towards making sure the Earth’s temperature doesn’t rise above 2 degrees Celsius; this degree change is usually agreed upon as being the tipping point to preventing massive effects of climate change. (However, it should be noted that more recent science indicates a change of even 1 degree Celsius could cause major threats and impacts to coastal communities and developing nations.)
  6. Ratifying countries can independently decide on how to lower their emissions. This is a big deal: previous attempts at a climate deal required that similar measures be adopted by all signing parties. However, because economies, cultures, and nations differ so greatly, a common denominator was hard to determine and, therefore, achieve. Allowing ratifying countries to determine the best way forward for them, individually, galvanized support for the agreement. The Nature Conservancy recently advanced a similar approach through our 50 State Strategy.
  7. The Paris Agreement has aspects that are binding, and aspects that are not. Some elements of the agreement — such as requirements to report on progress towards lowering emissions — are binding. However, some elements are non-binding, such as the setting of emission-reduction targets. See #6.
  8. The Paris Agreement calls out the power of nature — specifically forests — to reduce climate change. “The agreement affirms the important role that ecosystems, biodiversity, and land use can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping communities and countries reduce risks and adapt to climate change impacts. It also promotes sustainable management of land, which can range from conserving and restoring forests to improving agriculture,” said Duncan Marsh, the Conservancy’s director of international climate policy. 
  9. Investing in nature is clearly a smart way forward for combatting climate change. The Conservancy is well positioned to create major strides in how healthy ecosystems can protect people from the effects of climate change. In fact, our science-based methods have been informing this work for decades.
  10. You can make a difference. What the world did by ratifying the Paris Agreement was truly inspiring, but you don’t have to be a diplomat, or scientist, or politician to make a difference. Sign our pledge that calls on world leaders to keep their promise for action on climate change. Sign the pledge today!