Will the Paris Agreement Make a Difference ? Opportunities and Challenges

By Yimei Li

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French President Francois Hollande (C, 1st row), United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (4th, 1st row) and Christiana Figures (3rdL, 1st row), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, pose for a photo with head of states and government during the opening day.REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen.

On Oct 5 2016, Paris Agreement entered into force.

Personally speaking, I think COP21 will shape our world to be a non-fossil fuel era. Communicated NDCs support for Paris Agreement are expected to give a strong signal for public as well as private sectors that they should prepare and approach for an end of fossil fuel age. Although the provisions involving essential part on transparency stay imprecise, the Paris Agreement provides the starting point of reform with expectation for future quasi-constant negotiations in the next decades. From Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), time frames and periods for implementation scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches are well designed (UNFCCC, 2014). Since the Paris Agreement has come into force  (United Nations, 2015), “well below 2°C” becomes possible to a large extend because of the governments’ endeavor of developing renewable energy.


However, unfortunately, there are still huge dissonance between diplomatic understatement and targets of 2 degrees rather than absolute achievements. We can see from page two of the agreement:

“Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.”



“The Paris Agreement is nothing but a diplomatic victory for world powers, as they can now mobilise the deal to work towards alternative pathways to energy production.” Picture shows people drawing attention to populations threatened by rising seas and increasing droughts and floods, during COP21 in Paris. Photo by AP


There are at least two difficulties to break the Paris Agreement. On the one hand, although developed countries guaranteed in 2009 to give $100 billion each year until 2020 to support developing counties constraint GHG emissions, developing nations still ask for more beyond 2020 (Adoption of the Paris Agreement, 2015). Nevertheless, U.S. and other European countries refused to promise higher figures. On the other hand, the long-term goals are understated and vague in some nations like China and India, deeply reliant on coal. They are reluctant to arrange clear plans for eliminate emissions.



There are still opportunities when we alter an established but disempowered scientific consensus into a joint worldwide political consensus. It is the first time of having a truly global agreement on climate change, one of the most vital environmental issues today. The United States and China are trying to cooperate, as two countries formally join the Paris Agreement and sign INDC (White House, 2016). It is the time for energy market to show a strong preference for renewable and clean energy solutions that will stimulate innovation, enlarge non-fossil fuel markets, and benefit from a zero carbon energy era, a giant leap forward.

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U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande (C) and Bill Gates (R) take part in the launch of Mission Innovation, a landmark commitment to dramatically accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

From Paris Agreement to Philadelphia

On December 1 2015, Philadelphia Releases First Climate Adaptation Report. The change for Philadelphia to leverage advantage in advanced production, vehicles of consumption, diversity in manufacturing and engineering. According to the United Nations’ request that all developed countries and major cities reduce GHG emissions, Philadelphia would have to decrease emissions by 66% to meet the requirement (Drexel University for The Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, 2015). The Paris agreement should be good news for Philadelphia since there will be more green architectures, well-designed electricity generation and transportation when adopting the Paris Agreement. Cities can make a difference by adopting large scale decarbonization strategies.

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Philadelphia Cityscape. –by Sam LeVan


Yimei Li (@Yimei Li) is a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania working toward Multi-Master’s Degree in International Environmental Management with an emphasis in Energy Environment Economics and Policy. Previously, she was a research assistant at Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, Beijing for four years. She received her undergraduate degree of economics from Beijing Institute of Technology. 


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