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Scales, text book and gavel

COP26 is less than 100 days away and as part of this year’s conference world leaders, advisers and experts will be finalising rules under the Paris Agreement and the Paris Agreement Rulebook to enhance ambitions to tackle climate change. But, what is the Paris Agreement and why is international law crucial to making it work? Dr Petra Minnerop, from our Law School, is here to explain.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a ground-breaking, legally binding, international agreement reached at COP21 in Paris in 2015.

In it, countries agreed for the first time to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and aim for limiting warming to 1.5 °C.

The agreement also included commitments to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate and to provide financial support to poorer countries to deliver on these aims.

All countries agreed to submit national pledges setting out how much they would reduce their emissions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or ‘NDCs’, every five years and to demonstrate increasing ambition at each five-year review cycle.

Why is COP26 so important when it comes to the Paris Agreement?

COP26 is the first COP where countries will need to submit their enhanced/or second NDCs under the Paris Agreement.

Current NDCs will not achieve the temperature target of the Paris Agreement and the world is heading towards a 3 °C temperature increase by the end of the century.  So, COP26 is seen as crucial for raising levels of ambition and action.

The climate emergency is about fossil fuel emissions, what has law got to do with it?

The transformational changes that the decarbonisation of economies world-wide requires, will depend on legal measures at international and national levels.

International and domestic law must work together to achieve the targets the international community has committed to.  

How can academics in law contribute to making the Paris Agreement work?

Legal scholarship can support designing further rules for implementing the Paris Agreement and for assessing benefits/shortcomings of existing rules.

On a practical level, legal scholars are also working with developing countries to support them in developing legal frameworks, especially on adaptation.

Finally, it is also important to provide our students with legal education on the international and national law on climate change.

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