Bucking a depressing trend of failed climate talks, the Paris Agreement marked the first time rich and poor countries united in support of a legally binding treaty aimed at curbing global warming.
More than 190 parties pledged to limit the planet’s heating to “well below” 2°C (3.6°Fahrenheit) compared with pre-industrial levels while aiming for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5°C (2.7°Fahrenheit).
Six years on, as negotiators gather for another “last chance” summit in Glasgow, the euphoria that greeted the Paris accord has largely faded. Under the deal hammered out in 2015, all signatories were given five years to submit their roadmaps to slash greenhouse gas emissions – officially known as their “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs).
But despite a 12-month extension due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most countries are still struggling to translate the promises of the COP21 into concrete measures.
Meanwhile, global warming has accelerated. In a bombshell report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in August that the Earth’s average temperature is on track to reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by around 2030 – a full decade earlier than projected only three years ago.
IPCC experts said promises made by the Paris accord signatories would, if kept, lead to an already catastrophic 3°C rise in temperatures despite commitments to keep warming to 2°C.
Failure to implement even those would leave our planet on track for a 4°C to 5°C rise, at which point some of the world’s most densely populated areas would become uninhabitable.
The IPCC report is a “code red for humanity”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned. This is the sobering backdrop to the COP26 gathering in Glasgow, during which participants will be required to submit drastically revised NDCs.
Their level of ambition will seal the fate of the landmark Paris accord, which has so far produced only mixed results. France24