The Paris Agreement

May 25, 2016

The Paris Agreement

Extract from Forestry and Wood Update

Forest Sector Development/COFORD Division

Volume 15 Number 1, 2016 © COFORD 2016


The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement on climate change and the associated Decision 1/CP.21, finalised on the 12

December 2015, brought to a successful conclusion a negotiation process that had begun in Durban at the end of 2011. In preparation for the COP-21, more than 180 countries (representing 95% of global GHG emissions) submitted their emission reduction targets in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Nearly 100 countries explicitly mentioned a mitigation role for the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, emphasising the important role it has to play.

A summary of the main outcomes from Paris is available at What follows here is a short summary of the main outcomes and their likely impact on the forest and wood products sector in Ireland.

The central element of the agreement is the long-term temperature goal (Article 2), which reaffirms the need to limit global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. Article 4 goes on to say that that to achieve the temperature goal

Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century”.

These words mean in effect that biological sinks (including forests) will play an increasing role in tackling climate change post 2020, in a period when the level of emissions is expected to be well below current levels. As an indication of how far reductions must go, the October 2009 European Council set the appropriate abatement objective for Europe and other developed economies at 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.  To prepare for the decarbonised world that these policies are aiming for, continued expansion of forest cover and avoidance of forest loss are necessary at the global level. In Ireland it means continued state and private investment in afforestation, a greatly expanded use of wood products in the construction sector, and use of locally sourced wood fuels in heating and CHP.

Sinks and reservoirs are specifically covered in Article 5, which encourages Parties to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d) of the Convention, including forests.

An important element of the agreement is a global goal to significantly strengthen national adaptation efforts – enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reduction of vulnerability to climate change – through support and international cooperation. The forest sector is inputting to the national adaptation plan process. An important principle here is the need to maintain genetic diversity and adaptive capacity in species used in both afforestation and reforestation. This is one of the considerations underlying the Seed Stands and Seed Orchard Scheme. The agreement also recognizes that adaptation is a global challenge faced by all. All Parties should submit and update periodically an adaptation communication on their priorities, implementation and support needs, plans and actions.

Where does the process go from here? Article 4 of the agreement establishes binding commitments by all Parties to prepare, communicate and maintain a nationally determined contribution (NDC) and to pursue domestic measures to achieve them. To set a firm foundation for higher ambition, each successive NDC will represent a progression beyond the previous one and reflect the highest possible ambition. One of the next steps will be to elaborate principles and rules for accounting for soil carbon and forests under the UNFCCC process.

At EU level the Commission is currently preparing a draft legal decision to give effect to the commitment, endorsed at the European Council in October 2014, for a binding EU target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. It is expected the legal proposal will issue later this year. The co-decision process will then determine the final form of the legal agreement, including the treatment of forests and other land uses.