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COP21: Summary and Review

by Jyotsna Venkatesh

Published: December 17, 2015

On December 12, 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed by 195 nations worldwide, bringing the COP21 conference to an end. Below we summarize key points of the agreement, followed by a list of major financial agreements and other alliances to come out of the conference.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement brings all nations into a common consensus on their current and future responsibilities regarding the use of carbon and addressing climate change for the first time. A major part of the agreement settles on a temperature threshold, which is outlined in Article 2. The aim is to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, with additional efforts to limit increases further than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The key points of the Paris Agreement include:

  • Temperature threshold
  • Peak emissions
  • Adaptation measures
  • Loss and Damage
  • Finance
  • Technology Development and Transfer
  • Capacity Building
  • Transparency of Action and Support
  • Global “Stocktake” and reporting mechanisms
  • Facilitating Implementation and Compliance

Details on each element of the agreement can be found here. IISD Reporting Services offers a full summary of COP21 here.

Financial Commitments made during COP21

Article 9 of the agreement places a legal obligation on developed countries to continue providing finance to developing countries in an effort to build larger adaptive and enforcement capacity. Below is a summary of the financial commitments announced during the conference.

Table 1: Financial Commitments announced at COP21

Country Financing

Country Name Amount Purpose
Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland with support from World Bank Group Transformative Carbon Asset Facility
$500 million Help developing countries implement their plans to cut emissions
Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America Global Environment Facility $248 million Adaptation support for vulnerable countries
France (City of Paris) Green Climate Fund $1.05 million Fund on behalf of the Mayor of Paris to encourage and support other cities
Canada (Québec) Least Developed Countries Fund
$6 million Fund from the Province of Québec to boost financing for most vulnerable countries
Vietnam Green Climate Fund $1 million Providing assistance to developing countries
Germany Adaptation Fund
$54.9 million To benefit regions and people that are particularly affected by climate change
Norway Green Climate Fund $516 million (by 2020) Reduce developing countries’ vulnerability to climate change
Belgian Regions (Wallonia, Flanders, Brussels Capital Region) Green Climate Fund $12.07 million Reduce developing countries’ vulnerability to climate change
France Green Climate Fund
$849.83 million (out of existing pledges, total signed) Reduce developing countries’ vulnerability to climate change
Canada Green Climate Fund
$215.25 million (out of existing pledges) Reduce developing countries’ vulnerability to climate change

Private Financing

Actor Type of fund or Actor Amount Purpose
Caisse des Dépots French Financial Institution $16.28 billion; $59.70 billion To direct green investments until 2017; 20% de-carbonizing target
ABP Dutch pension fund De-carbonize $108.54 billion of shares by 25% in 2020 De-carbonize totality of shares portfolio by 25% in 2020
New York Common Retirement Fund
Pension fund in the U.S. $2 billion (portfolio) Apply new risk controlled, low carbon emissions index to portfolio amount listed
Crédit Agricole CIB
French Corporate and Investment Bank $60 billion Climate finance by 2018
BNP Paribas French Multinational Bank $16 billion Climate finance
Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition
De-carbonization of $600 billion in assets Convening 25 investors to oversee de-carbonization of assets under management

Source: UNFCCC Newsroom

Note: All figures expressed in USD.

The UNFCCC secretariat has also collected announcements of climate funding from a variety of donors throughout the year, summarized in this interactive graphic. ODI has also prepared a useful infographic of private and public climate financing commitments from the conference.

Table 2: Alliances and Partnerships launched during COP21

Name Country or Actors Purpose
Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction
Armenia, Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore,
Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vietnam
Speed up and scale up the sector’s huge potential to reduce its emissions and build greater climate resilience into future cities and
Lima-Paris Action Agenda Focus on Cities
Cities, Regions, National States, Public and Orivate Investors, and International organizations Five year vision to take action on climate change
International Solar Energy Alliance
India and France Boost solar energy in developing countries
Mission InnovationBreakthrough Energy Coalition Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South
Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States of America; Private Actors
Reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation with the objective to make clean energy widely affordable
Paris Pact on Water and Adaptation
India, Niger Basin, Jordan, Lebanon, Monaco, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia, China, Basin of Congo; The
Mega Cities Coalition
Make water systems more resilient to climate impacts
The UN Secretary-General’s Climate Resilience Initiative
UN Secretary General, FAO, UNEP, UNFCCC, UN-Habitat, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNOPS, UNISDR, WFP, OCHA, WHO, WMO Build climate resilience in most vulnerable countries
Source: UNFCCC Newsroom

So what’s been the reaction to COP21 outcomes?

The Paris Agreement is largely being hailed as an historic and successful international deal shifting the global economy towards a low-carbon future. The agreement necessarily implies large carbon cuts around the world, with some scientists pointing to a figure of zero emissions by the year 2070. A more in-depth analysis of implications for Canada is covered in another post.

In his review of COP21 outcomes, Johah Busch from the Center for Global Development gives high marks to the conference, noting the achievements in terms of holding to the 2 degree Celsius target and exceeding it, garnering international financing commitments, letting countries trade carbon and including REDD+ in the agreement. Analysis by Carbon Brief similarly applauds the temperature limit, though notes that 2 degrees Celsius falls short of the desires of many island and vulnerable nations which had pushed for 1.5 degrees Celsius as an absolute limit.

There has been criticism regarding the impact of the proposed emissions reductions, and how close we will actually get to reaching the proposed temperature thresholds. Bjorn Lomborg, from the Copenhagen Consensus Center, conducted an analysis of the INDC’s submitted before COP21 using the MAGICC climate model and concludes that even with all the climate policies proposed by U.S., China and E.U., implemented throughout the early 2000s to 2030, will likely reduce global temperatures by 0.17 degrees Celsius by 2100. He further highlights if such low reductions justify the amount this will cost the global economy annually.

With respect to climate financing, a plethora of commitments were made by national governments, the private sector, and local governments.  While commitments are welcome, Kevin Watkins, Executive Director of ODI, noted that more would be needed to ensure that developing countries do not foot the bill for a problem that was not of their making.

Enforceability of this agreement, or a lack thereof, presents a significant challenge in setting consequences for not implementing and monitoring the promises made around reaching the goals set out in the text. Much rests on the initiative taken by the top emitters to meaningfully reduce emissions by the end of the century. However, the Paris Agreement lays the foundation for sustainable development ahead. It serves as an important first step towards greater action and commitment to addressing climate change though there is certainly much work to be done.

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