What is the Paris Agreement?

  • by Cathay Petroleum
  • December 21, 2023
Cathay Petroleum International Ltd.

It is fair to say that climate change does not discriminate based on country – it is a global issue, although poorer nations tend to face greater effects from emissions. The Paris Agreement is a legally-binding international treaty, the world’s first in the field of climate change, bringing virtually all nations together to fight climate change. So significant and important is the agreement that US President Joe Biden recommitted to it on his first day in office in January 2021.

Entered into force in 2016, goals of the Paris Agreement are to:

Limit global warming to 1.5°C by the end of the 21st century and to keep them well below 2.0°C above pre-industrial levels.  Crossing the 1.5°C mark would put the world at risk of even more severe impacts on climate change and even more extreme weather.
Limit greenhouse gas emissions to the same levels that trees, soi, and oceans can naturally absorb between 2050 and 2100.  This is what we otherwise call “net zero”.

For the Paris Agreement to work, countries must submit their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in which they specify the actions they will take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to adapt to rising temperatures. Every five years, countries are expected to update their NDCs.  Subsequent NDCs are meant to be more ambitious than the previous ones. Countries are also encouraged, but not required, to submit long-term strategies.

Developing countries produce more than half of today’s greenhouse gases but are limited by finances and capacity. These countries have been demanding funds for loss and damage incurred from the effects of climate change. Developed countries are therefore expected to take the lead in providing financial assistance (or climate finance) to more vulnerable countries and support them in their emissions control and adaptation efforts. At COP27 in 2022, countries agreed to setting up a fund, and at COP28, US$700m was committed.

However, the strength of the Paris Agreement, being an all-nations cooperative effort, is dependent on its many participants to remain committed to the joint task. Scientist also argue the need to assess the progress made toward its goals every year.


“The Paris Agreement.” Unfccc.Int, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.

“The Paris Agreement.” United Nations, United Nations, Accessed 18 Dec. 2023.

“The Paris Agreement.” MIT Climate Portal, Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.

Stallard, Esme. “Why Is the Paris Climate Agreement Still Important?” BBC News, BBC, 27 Nov. 2023,

Poynting, Mark. “What Was Agreed on Climate Change at COP28 in Dubai?” BBC News, BBC, 13 Dec. 2023,