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Laurence Tubiana, Christiana Figueres, Ban Ki-moon, Laurent Fabius & Francois Hollande celebrate the successful end of the COP21 Paris Climate Conference.
COP21 Paris Climate Conference. Credit: COP PARIS/Flickr.
12 December 2015 14:30

Analysis: The final Paris climate deal

Multiple Authors

COP21 ParisAnalysis: The final Paris climate deal

7:00pm update – The Paris deal has been adopted. Check Carbon Brief next week for in depth analysis of the agreement.

Countries have been presented with the final draft of the Paris deal, which the French presidency hopes will be agreed this afternoon.

“You have this opportunity to take the world. You have to take this opportunity, grasp it, so our planet may live a long time,” French president François Hollande told the gathered diplomats during one of the final meetings of the two-week talks.

The 31-page draft no longer has any brackets to indicate areas of disagreement on the text.

Nonetheless, the COP21 plenary later today must still sign off on the deal. As COP president Laurent Fabius said on Wednesday, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The temperature goal

The final draft of the Paris deal includes a temperature limit of “well below 2C”, and says there should be “efforts” to limit it to 1.5C. This is stronger than many countries had hoped just months previously, but falls short of the desires of many island and vulnerable nations, which had pushed for 1.5C as an absolute limit.

Long-term goal

To give practical relevance to the temperature limit, the deal also includes a long-term emissions goal. The draft wording aims to peak global greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible” and to achieve “balance” between emissions and sinks in the second half of the century.

This is similar to the “emissions neutrality” language, which appeared in the previous draft, but more specific and tightly defined. Iteffectively means reaching net-zero emissions after 2050, though the lack of a specific timeline is a blow to those that wanted the clearest possible message for investors.

See the end of this article for more discussion around the term ‘balance’.


The text provides essentially a two-stage process to increase ambition over time, acknowledging that the current provisions are not going to be enough to reach the long-term 2C temperature limit.

In 2018, there will be a facilitative dialogue to take stock of the collective efforts of countries, which should inform the efforts of future commitments. Countries which have submitted targets for 2025 are then urged to come back in 2020 with a new target, while those with 2030 targets are invited to “communicate or update” them.

This process will essentially be repeated every five years, with the first post-2020 stocktake occurring in 2023.


The agreement places a legal obligation on developed countries to continue to provide climate finance to developing countries. It also encourages other countries to provide support voluntarily — a compromise between the highly polarized positions that have taken centre stage at the negotiations.

Many of the details have been moved out of the legally binding agreement and into the more flexible decisions. This includes the provision that, prior to 2025, countries should agree a “new collective quantified goal” from the floor of $100bn per year, which is the current aspiration. The notion of short-term collective goals has been cut from the text.


On mitigation, binds Parties to prepare and regularly update climate commitments. Each subsequent pledge must be more ambitious, and developing countries are “encouraged” to move towards stricter goals.

Countries would be required to “pursue…policies…with the aim of achieving” their climate pledges (INDCs), a tougher than expected provision. The decision text “invites” countries to write long-term low-emissions strategies by 2020, while the legal agreement says they should “strive” to do this.

Loss and damage

Loss and damage has its own Article in the agreement — an important political statement that it is now seen on a par with mitigation and adaptation. It sets out important details about what needs to be considered under loss and damage, but the clear trade off appears in the decisions: liability and compensation are explicitly excluded.


The deal would set out “flexible” rules on reporting for “those developing country Parties that need it in the light of their capacities”. However, all countries would be bound to report “regularly” on their emissions and efforts to reduce them.

A “facilitative, non-intrusive, non-punitive” system of review will track countries’ progress. The rules on transparency are a top priority for the US and EU, which are keen to ensure China faces equivalent scrutiny of its efforts.


The deal establishes a “global goal” on adaptation of “enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change”. This is linked to the temperature goal. It binds countries to engage in an adaptation planning process, and says that countries should “submit and update periodically” adaptation communications.


The draft would allow voluntary use of “international transferred mitigation outcomes”, in other words emissions trading, with provisos including “environmental integrity” and no double counting. The text does not mention international aviation or shipping emissions.

The deal would enter force once at least 55 parties, covering at least 55% of global emissions have signed up. In 2012 China, the US, India, Brazil, Russia and Japan topped this minimum alone.


As with the discussion around the term greenhouse gas neutrality yesterday, there’s a lot of debate today regarding the new wording in Article 4 about achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions and sinks. Carbon Brief spoke to some scientists to ask for their interpretation. Here’s what they said:

Prof Simon Lewis, professor of global change science at the University College London and the University of Leeds:

To me, ‘balance’ is synonymous with ‘net zero’ anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the context of the sentence in the Paris text. So, by net zero there would be emissions and some offsetting by sinks that are also anthropogenic, to a maximum of zero net emissions. Practically this may mean that some carbon emissions would be offset by planting – and keeping in perpetuity – trees, or negative emissions via carbon capture and storage.

Dr Steffen Kallbekken, research director at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) in Oslo:

As I read the text, it’s very open to interpretation. These are not well-defined concepts. Choosing “balance” instead of “net zero” is vague…. It does not specify the way they define what sinks are, so as I see it, this opens up to the possibility of carbon capture and storage.

Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, professor of climatology and environmental sciences at the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and former vice-chair of the IPCC:

Some of those words and terms are open to interpretation and I’m sure in the coming COPs and subsidiary body meetings there will be some debates about the precise interpretation to be given to the words they use in Article 4.

9:30pm Update: Carbon Brief has just left a press conference with Amber Rudd, the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change. Here is the audio. At 5:02 minutes in, Leo Hickman, Carbon Brief’s editor, asks a question about how the deal now implies that the world, EU and UK will all need more carbon capture and storage and negative emissions in the future…

We’ve also compared today’s text against the previous draft, below.

Carbon Brief coverage of the Paris Climate Conference

Main image: Christiana Figueres, Ban Ki-moon, Laurent Fabius & Francois Hollande celebrate the successful end of the COP21 Paris Climate Conference. Credit: COP PARIS/Flickr.
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