The Paris Agreement and Why It Matters

Here at Take Two, we understand the creation of a sustainable food system and plant-rich future is a marathon, not a sprint, and we are committed, for the long-haul, to working toward these big dreams and goals.

Simultaneously, what’s also true is that we all -- individuals, communities, organizations, corporations, governments, nations -- must act quickly and powerfully, in order to create the amount and quality of change required to address the climate crisis, in the time we still have left to do so.

Sticking with the marathon metaphor, the recent decision and move by the United States to rejoin The Paris Agreement is an important moment in the climate action race.

What Is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a “hybrid of legally binding and nonbinding provisions” (Paris Agreement, FAQs) created and written to fulfill a wide range of functions, from creating a spirit of unified ambition across our global community, to formalizing the process of developing national climate action plans and assessing and reviewing progress on these plans over time. More specifically, The Paris Agreement aims to:

  • Limit global warming well below 2 degree Celsius and as close to 1.5 degree Celsius as possible;
  • Increase economic and social ability to adapt to extreme climate;
  • Direct the scale and speed of global financial flows to match the required path to very low-emission, climate-resilient development (Paris Agreement, FAQs).

Why It Matters

Some of the innovative things about The Paris Agreement and the way it’s designed and structured are:

  • It provides a mechanism to increase the level of ambition across the globe with regard to addressing the climate crisis and solidifying international cooperation and solidarity on this front;
  • It acts as a legal instrument that can and will guide the process for universally acting on climate change, that countries opt into by individually indicating their consent to be bound by The Agreement, as well as by creating their own “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs) regarding how they intend to adhere to and implement The Agreement;
  • It rests on a principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” -- meaning, there is a duty on all parties to take climate action, while recognizing nations’ differing situations, capacities, circumstances, and level of resources (Paris Agreement, FAQs).

Unfortunately, it is true that the U.S. has lost 3.5-4 years of movement toward the nation-specific NDCs lined out by the US as its contributions to The Agreement. These NDCs -- outlined and communicated by each country separately -- make up the heart of The Paris Agreement, and
“together, these climate actions determine whether the world achieves the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement and to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible” (The Paris Agreement & NDCS).

By rejoining The Agreement in January 2021, the Biden-Harris administration is recommitting to pick up where the U.S. left off in 2016-17 with regard to the U.S.’s NDCs and additional domestic policies, plans, and efforts that will be vital to the U.S.’s contributions to climate action going forward.

Image credit: WH.GOV

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