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Paris Climate Agreement

Our climate is changing at an alarming rate and we’re already feeling the impacts. Storms are increasing in number and intensity, wildfires rage well beyond their historic season, and our rising oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic.

Climate change is a global danger that we can only curb with global action—and the Paris Agreement gives us the pathway to do just that.

What is the Paris Agreement?

Report paints dire picture

The United Nations released a new emissions report that finds that even if all current climate plans are implemented, temperatures are expected to rise by 3.2°C, bringing even wider-ranging and more destructive climate impacts. Collective ambition must increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade for the 1.5°C goal. Now, more than ever is the time for global leaders to act on the climate crisis. At COP25, WWF will be working with American leaders who are committed to addressing the climate crisis to show that the United States will do its part. WWF will host them at the United States Climate Action Center, providing a key venue to showcase their leadership, innovation, and collaboration.

Read the report

The Paris Agreement is the first truly global commitment to fight the climate crisis. In 2015, 195 countries and the European Union signed on to a single, sweeping agreement that aims to keep global warming to well below 2°C (3.6°F)—and make every effort to go above 1.5°C (2.7°F). 

The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations—inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, businesses and others—came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant socio-economic benefits.

National governments cannot meet this challenge alone. Fortunately, the Paris Agreement explicitly recognizes the role of local governments, businesses, investors, civil society, unions, faith, and academic institutions as critical to meeting the 1.5 °C goal.

Why do we need a global deal to fight climate change?

Human-caused global warming will impact people, wildlife, and habitats everywhere. We need to come together and immediately and aggressively cut emissions to save the Earth as we know it. Recent reports from international climate scientists and the US federal government have underscored the severe risks of inaction. The difference between blowing past 1.5°C (2.7°F) of warming and reaching or exceeding 2°C (3.6°F) is stark; the risk of heatwaves, floods, ice-free Arctic summers, and habitat loss, and more increase every moment we don’t act.

Stopping the climate crisis is critical to our collective wellbeing, but no single country can stop the damage alone. The Paris Agreement is unprecedented in the near unanimity of nations it brought together on this issue and is the best way to secure the global cooperation needed to address climate change.

Where does the United States stand?

“It’s no exaggeration to say that the US federal government’s current approach to climate change stands as the single largest barrier to preserving a stable future for life on Earth.”

Carter Roberts
President and CEO, WWF

The United States was instrumental in the design and negotiation of the Paris Agreement and signed on to it in 2015. As one of its signatories, the US submitted a pledge to cut emissions by 26%-28% relative to 1990 levels by 2025. In 2017, however, the federal government announced its intent to withdraw from the agreement after a new administration took office. 

The formal process of withdrawing cannot begin until Nov. 4, 2019—three years after the Agreement entered into force. The agreement then requires a minimum one-year period before the decision is finalized. The Trump administration submitted its official notification of withdrawal on or around Nov. 4 of 2019. This means the earliest date by which the US can completely withdraw from the Paris Agreement is Nov. 4, 2020.

Who’s leading in the absence of the federal government?

“This Administration’s climate policy also stands at odds with growing bipartisan coalitions in Congress, and with a clear majority of American businesses, cities, and states. ”

Carter Roberts
President and CEO, WWF

Fortunately, more than 3,800 leaders from America’s cities, states, tribes, businesses, colleges, and universities have stood up to say they will continue to support climate action to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement as part of the We Are Still In movement. These leaders have crossed cultural, political, economic, and social divides to take on the challenge of the climate crisis.

With support from WWF and over two dozen other organizations, We Are Still In has been welcomed by other countries and applauded by everyday Americans eager to show the world that US leadership on climate change extends well beyond the executive branch of the federal government.

This type of coalition across sectors, partisan lines, and even faiths was once unprecedented, it is now a model that drives nations toward more ambitious climate action around the world. The Alliances for Climate Action is a global network of coalitions now spanning five continents. They are the new faces of climate leadership around the world and are speeding up the planning and implementation of critical action on climate.

Is this response only needed in the US?

Coalitions, like WASI, that span sectors, partisan lines, and even faiths were once unprecedented, it is now a model that drives nations toward more ambitious climate action around the world. They are not only needed in the United States, but everywhere and The Alliances for Climate Action is a global network of coalitions now spanning five continents. They are the new faces of climate leadership around the world and are speeding up the planning and implementation of critical action on climate both in coordination with their respective governments and within their own communities.

What's the next step for the Paris Agreement?

Countries have yet to finalize the rules of how the Paris Agreement will operate going forward and COP25—an international climate talk which is in the process of being rescheduled—will allow countries to complete that job. WWF is working with American leaders committed to addressing the climate crisis to show at COP25 that the United States will do its part. WWF will host them at the United States Climate Action Center, providing a key venue to showcase their leadership, innovation, and collaboration.

Moments of Climate Action A brief history of key international efforts to curb climate change

 
  1. June 1992

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted. The UNFCCC unites 196 countries to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

    UN flags
  2. December 1997

    Kyoto Protocol adopted. It's the world’s first agreement to reduce emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases and enters into force in 2005.

    Kyoto skyline
 
  1. September 2014

    People's Climate March in New York CityMore than 400,000 people—including a large delegation from WWF—demonstrate the urgent need for governments to act on climate change, two days before world leaders convene in the city for a UN-led summit on the issue.

    Climate March in 2014
  2. December 2015

    Historic Paris Agreement adoptedIn the first truly global agreement to curb climate change, 195 countries agree to a plan that aims to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 1.5°C above historical levels. It enters into force 11 months later.

    celebrating at cop 21
 
  1. April 2017

    People's Climate March takes place in Washington, DC. With the Capitol Building as the backdrop, approximately 200,000 people march in the streets of the nation's capital to show the world that we support action on climate change.

    Climate March in DC
  2. June 2017

    US announces intent to withdraw from Paris Agreement. WWF urges the Trump administration to reconsider its decision, saying that the US needs to commit to cutting carbon pollution and preparing communities for the impacts of climate change.

    Climate March in DC
 
  1. June 2017

    We Are Still In declaration announced. More than 3,600 leaders from America’s cities, states, tribes, businesses, colleges, and universities sign on to say they will continue to support climate action to meet the commitments of the Paris Agreement. The list of members is still growing and also inspiring new coalitions to emerge in other countries.

    We Are Still In logo
  2. September 2018

    Global Climate Action Summit takes place. Leaders from states and regions, cities, business, investors and civil society call on national governments to join forces to step up climate action ahead of 2020—the year when global greenhouse gases need to fall sharply to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

    Nina Gualinga addresses GCAS audience
 
  1. December 2018

    We Are Still In leaders attend international climate talks. World leaders finalize key details of the Paris Agreement, including how countries will report progress on meeting their climate targets and the launch of a process to trigger a new round of targets by 2020.

 
  1. September 2019

    Over six million people from across the globe demonstrated in support of climate action making it the largest climate protest in history.

    Activists march for climate action in New York City in 2019
  2. November 2019

    US intends to submit letter officially announcing its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

    US Capitol Building
 
  1. December 2019

    World leaders will come together with the goal of finalizing details of the Paris Agreement, including mechanisms to help countries work together to reduce and mitigate their emissions.

    Arc de Triomphe in Paris
 
  1. 2020

    This year will be a test both of the strength of the Paris Agreement and determination to make changes needed to set the world on a path to remaining below 1.5°C.

  2. November 2020

    COP26 is a crucial milestone where world leaders are expected to have made powerful commitments in the form of enhanced nationally determined contributions, and first time Long-Term 2050 decarbonization strategies.