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The Paris Agreement on Climate was adopted in December 2015 at the twenty-first meeting of the Committee of the Parties (COP21), as part of a continuing international effort to mitigate climate change headed by the United Nations. The agreement was a successor to the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which set specific targets, financial contributions, and monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to meet them. The Kyoto Protocol was seen by some large developed countries as harmful to their economies, and it raised complaints that other parties weren’t required to make sufficient reductions in emissions. The United States never ratified the treaty, and Canada announced its withdrawal in 2011.

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In contrast, the Paris Agreement has been criticized for its lack of both country-specific goals for emission reduction and enforcement mechanisms. Instead it seeks to limit global temperature increase to below 2℃, and achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions at some point between the years 2030 and 2050.

In consideration of Earth Day, below is an annotation of the Introduction of the Agreement, with relevant scholarship covering the populations, economies, and governments affected by climate change. As always, the supporting research is free to read and download. If you see a small red letter J after a hyperlink—that looks like the one below, click it for free access to that content on JSTOR.

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The Parties to this Agreement,

Being Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hereinafter referred to as “the Convention,”

Pursuant to the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action established by decision 1/CP.17 of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention at its seventeenth session,

In pursuit of the objective of the Convention, and being guided by its principles, including the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances,

Recognizing the need for an effective and progressive response to the urgent threat of climate change on the basis of the best available scientific knowledge,

Also recognizing the specific needs and special circumstances of developing country Parties, especially those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, as provided for in the Convention,

Taking full account of the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries with regard to funding and transfer of technology,

Recognizing that Parties may be affected not only by climate change, but also by the impacts of the measures taken in response to it,

Emphasizing the intrinsic relationship that climate change actions, responses and impacts have with equitable access to sustainable development and eradication of poverty,

Recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change,

Taking into account the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities,

Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,

Recognizing the importance of the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of the greenhouse gases referred to in the Convention,

Noting the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans, and the protection of biodiversity, recognized by some cultures as Mother Earth, and noting the importance for some of the concept of “climate justice” when taking action to address climate change,

Affirming the importance of education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and cooperation at all levels on the matters addressed in this Agreement,

Recognizing the importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors, in accordance with respective national legislations of Parties, in addressing climate change,

Also recognizing that sustainable lifestyles and sustainable patterns of consumption and production, with developed country Parties taking the lead, play an important role in addressing climate change,

Have agreed as follows:

[The full text of the Paris Agreement can be found at application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf.]

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World Scientific Publishing Co., Inc.
Conservation Biology, Vol. 22, No. 6 (December 2008), pp. 1409–1417
Wiley for Society for Conservation Biology
COP27: AGENDA AND EXPECTATIONS, November 8, 2022, pp. 19–48
Centre for Science and Environment
Communicating Climate Change: A Guide for Educators, Cornell Series in Environmental Education (2018), pp. 7–20
Cornell University Press, Comstock Publishing Associates
Achieving 1.5 degrees in the real world: Opportunities, barriers and trade-offs, January 2018
Climate Strategies
Impact of climate change on Least Developed Countries: are the SDGs possible?, May 2015
International Institute for Environment and Development
What is effective climate adaptation? Case studies from the Least Developed Countries, August 2020
International Institute for Environment and Development
Hypatia, Vol. 29, No. 3, SPECIAL ISSUE: Climate Change (Summer 2014), pp. 599–616
Wiley on behalf of Hypatia, Inc.
The World Bank Research Observer, Vol. 29, No. 1 (February 2014), pp. 83–108
Oxford University Press
Urban poverty, food security and climate change, March 1, 2013, pp. 4–6
International Institute for Environment and Development
Science, New Series, Vol. 341, No. 6145 (2 August 2013), pp. 508–513
American Association for the Advancement of Science
A New Fair Deal for Climate, Trade and Development: Opportunities for the Global South, February 1, 2023, pp. 16–33
Cop24 Special Report: Health & Climate Change, January 1, 2018
World Health Organization
Tulane Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2, The Impacts of Climate Change on Indigenous Peoples (Summer 2013), pp. 179–195
Tulane Environmental Law Journal
Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 120, No. 5 (May 2012), pp. 646–654
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Health and Human Rights, Vol. 16, No. 1, Climate Justice and the Right to Health (June 2014), pp. 19–31
The President and Fellows of Harvard College on behalf of Harvard School of Public Health/François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights
Weather, Climate, and Society, Vol. 9, No. 4 (October 2017), pp. 801–814
American Meteorological Society
Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Vol. 4, No. 2-3, Environmental Futurity (Spring-Fall 2017), pp. 94–110
University of Nebraska Press
Gender and climate change, January 2015
Center for International Forestry Research
Growing Old in a Changing Climate, January 1, 2008
Stockholm Environment Institute
Cop27: Agenda and Expectations (November 8, 2022), pp. 105–117, November 8. 2022
Centre for Science and Environment
Oceanography, Vol. 32, No. 2, SPECIAL ISSUE ON SPURS-2: Salinity Processes in the Upper-ocean Regional Study 2 (June 2019), pp. 170–180
Oceanography Society
BioScience, Vol. 64, No. 7 (July 2014), pp. 625–629
Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences
Contexts, Vol. 12, No. 2, world on edge! (Spring 2013), pp. 34–39
Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the American Sociological Association
BioScience, Vol. 61, No. 3 (March 2011), pp. 231–237
Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Institute of Biological Sciences
State & Local Government Review, Vol. 47, No. 1 (March 2015), pp. 48–56
Sage Publications, Inc.
Consilience, No. 14 (2015), pp. 189–206
Columbia University
The Climate Crisis: South African and Global Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives, 2018
Wits University Press