The Paris Agreement has an “upward” structure unlike most international environmental treaties, which are “top down”, characterized by internationally defined standards and objectives that states must implement.  Unlike its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, which sets legal commitment targets, the Paris Agreement, which focuses on consensual training, allows for voluntary and national objectives.  Specific climate targets are therefore politically promoted and not legally binding. Only the processes governing reporting and revision of these objectives are imposed by international law. This structure is particularly noteworthy for the United States – in the absence of legal mitigation or funding objectives, the agreement is seen as an “executive agreement, not a treaty.” Since the 1992 UNFCCC treaty was approved by the Senate, this new agreement does not require further legislation from Congress for it to enter into force.  The agreement officially entered into force on 4 November 2016, a few days before COP22, and was ratified by 169 countries (including the European Union 28), which account for 87.75% of emissions. The Paris Agreement is the first legally binding universal global agreement on climate change adopted at the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP21) in December 2015. COP 21 or the Paris Climate Conference have resulted in a new international climate agreement that applies to all countries and aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, in line with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It will also enable the contracting parties to gradually strengthen their contributions to the fight against climate change in order to achieve the long-term objectives of the agreement. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush joined 107 other heads of state at the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil to adopt a series of environmental agreements, including the UNFCCC framework, which is still in force today.
The international treaty aims to prevent dangerous human intervention in the planet`s climate systems in the long term. The pact does not set limits on greenhouse gas emissions from individual countries and does not contain enforcement mechanisms, but establishes a framework for international negotiations on future agreements or protocols to set binding emissions targets. Participating countries meet annually at a Conference of the Parties (COP) to assess their progress and continue discussions on how best to combat climate change. Negotiators of the agreement stated that the INDCs presented at the time of the Paris conference were insufficient and found that “the estimates of aggregate greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the planned contributions at the national level are not covered by the least expensive scenarios of 2oC, but lead to a projected level of 55 gigatons in 2030.” and acknowledges that “much greater efforts to reduce emissions will be required to keep the global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees Celsius, reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or 1.5 degrees Celsius.”  [Clarification required] Ultimately, all parties recognized the need to “prevent, minimize and address losses and damages” , but in particular any mention of compensation or liability is excluded.  The Convention also takes up the Warsaw International Loss and Damage Mechanism, an institution that will attempt to answer questions about how to classify, address and co-responsible losses.  Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which set legally binding emission reduction targets (and penalties only for non-compliance) for industrialized countries alone, the Paris Agreement requires all countries – rich, poor, developed and developing – to take their share and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.