2019 10 21 01 08 51 1 edjpg

The Paris Agreement

1 November 2018

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a global agreement on climate change ratified by 195 countries. New Zealand ratified the Paris Agreement on the 4th of October 2016 and the agreement entered into force a month later on the 4th of November 2016.

The purpose is to limit warming well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and perhaps 1.5°C. To achieve this goal requires a reduction in emissions to 19 Gigatons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year (Gt CO2e/yr) by 2030. Current pledges amount to 52 to 58 Gt CO2 equivalent per year, and lead to an increase of global temperature of +3.2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Paris agreement

Figure : a) Range of possible emissions trajectories over the current century, showing 68% probabilities of resultant global mean air temperatures relative to preindustrial baseline. b) The full range of likely temperature scenarios arising from each emissions pathway, when carbon cycle modelling is included. Pledges refer to those made at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit and further underlined in the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement (Source: https://climateactiontracker.org).

What does this mean for Antarctica and New Zealand?

The frozen continent is an integral part of the Earth’s climate and ocean systems, and changes in the Antarctic environment are linked to the rest of the globe. Antarctic ice melt from increasing termperatures will contribute significantly to future sea level rise, increasing risks of coastal erosion and flooding. Already we are seeing climate-driven changes in sea ice formation, and increasing melt rates of glaciers and ice shelves. The changing physical environments, particularly temperatures, meltwater production and sea ice cover, also threaten the habitats, abundance and diversity of Antarctica’s unique flora and fauna, on land and at sea.

Consequences in a Paris Agreement world

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change produced a Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Some key conclusions from the report are:

  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society
  • Human activities caused ~1.0 °C warming (range 0.8-1.2°C)
  • Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052
  • Without largescale CO2 removal, emissions need to decline well before 2030 to limit global warming below 1.5°C

Efforts to monitor greenhouse gas emission reductions

The United Nations Environment 2018 Emission Gap Report assesses national mitigation efforts and ambitions to achieve the Paris Agreement. It particularly looks at the Emission Gap – the gap between anticipated emission levels in 2030, compared to levels that are consistent with a 1.5 or 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

The report found:

  • Global emissions have reached historic levels at 53.5 GtCO2e per year
  • If the emission gap is not closed by 2030, it is extremely unlikely that the 2°C temperature goal can still be reached
  • Only 57 counties (representing 60% of global emissions) are on track to peak emissions by 2030
  • Nations must raise their ambitions by 3 times to meet the 2°C and 5 times to meet the 1.5°C goal

There is still a long way to go to realise the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Antarctic Science Platform aims to provide scientific data and information to understand the implications of climatic and environmental change for informed decision-making.