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?
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?
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 and on Nov. 4, 2020, the United States became the only nation to withdraw.
Who’s leading in the absence of the federal government?
Fortunately, more than 4,000 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.
These leaders in the United States could achieve up to 37% emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2030 with significantly expanded action and 49% emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2030 with aggressive federal re-engagement starting in 2021.
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 COP26, scheduled to take place in November 2021 in the United Kingdom, will allow countries to complete that job. WWF is working with American leaders committed to addressing the climate crisis to show at COP26 that the United States will do its part.
Moments of Climate Action A brief history of key international efforts to curb climate change
- June 1992
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted. The UNFCCC unites 196 countries to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.
- 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.
- September 2014
People's Climate March in New York City. More 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.
- December 2015
Historic Paris Agreement adopted. In 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- September 2019
Over six million people from across the globe demonstrated in support of climate action making it the largest climate protest in history.
- November 2019
US intends to submit letter officially announcing its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.
- 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.
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.