Global climate change policies

Page Last modified 15 Mar 2023
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The threat of climate change is being addressed globally by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its long-term objective is ‘to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change′s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report shows that the observed warming since the mid-20th century is predominantly due to an increase in greenhouse-gas concentrations as a result of emissions from human activities.

Countries and other stakeholders have recognised that there is a need to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions substantially in order to avoid the most adverse impacts of climate change, while adaptation is also needed.

At the Paris climate conference (UNFCCC, COP21) in December 2015, all participating countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016 following its ratification by 100 of the 197 Parties to the Convention. The Paris Agreement aims to be a bridge between today’s policies and climate-neutrality before the end of the century With regard to mitigation, the governments agreed:

-          a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C compared with pre-industrial levels;

-          to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C compared with pre-industrial levels, as this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change;

-          on the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries;

-          to undertake rapid reductions thereafter, in accordance with the best available science.

Before and during the 2015 Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans (so-called intended nationally determined contributions). These are not yet enough to keep global warming below a 2 °C increase, but the agreement outlines the way to achieve this target.

Even if the limit of a 2 °C increase (of the average global surface temperature) is adhered to, many places on Earth will experience a higher temperature increase and climate change will have many impacts across the globe. Adaptation to climate change has thus been recognised within the UNFCCC as an important policy pillar (with a primary focus on vulnerable developing countries), which is complementary to the mitigation of climate change.




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