Energy Policy

Life After Paris


The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.  What has happened in the intervening years? Where do we stand on our progress toward its goals?

Let's take a look first at the annual COP meetings that have occurred since then.

UNFCCC COP meetings since Paris
Year Location Summary
2016 Marrakech, Morocco

A focus on water-related issues of particular importance to the developing world

2017 Bonn, Germany

Working out all the details of enforcement of the Paris Agreement for its 2020 start.

Notably, first gathering of this group after then newly-elected US President announces intention to withdraw the US from the Agreement

Fiji Momentum for Implementation - intended to help countries prepare their nationally determined contributions.

2018 Katowice, Poland

Continued work to prepare for Paris Agreement's 2020 implementation.  Some notable events around this time:

  • WMO report - 2017 atmospheric concentration of CO2 reaches 405 ppm (first time in at least 3-5 million years) just weeks before this gathering
  • IPCC's Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C comes out 2 months before this gathering

These reports send a bit of a shockwave and thrust climate change back into the limelight of the news just as the COP prepares to gather.  This year was a year of ultimatums from scientists about what failure to pursue aggressive mitigation measures would set into motion for our future climate.

The Katowice Climate Package is a fairly comprehensive effort to ensure that implementation and monitoring of the Paris Agreement will be transparent and fair.  It doesn't address all of the issues, but it's pretty solid.

2019 Bonn, Germany SB50 isn't a meeting of the COPs, but is worth noting here.  SB50 (The 50th session of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Implementation and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice meets to discuss that IPCC Special Report from late 2018 and to continue conversations about implementation of the Paris Agreement. For more information, see 50th Sessions of the UNFCCC Subsidiary Bodies.
2019 Madrid, Spain Marked by a large demonstration outside the meeting led by activist Greta Thunberg and marred by the inability to agree on some key issues surrounding implementation, the hopes of creating a final 'rulebook' of implementation didn't come to pass after several decisions were postponed to the following year, even after the meeting ran 2 full days longer than scheduled.  However, C2ES has this nice summary of what was accomplished and what that means moving forward.
2021 (postponed due to COVID-19) Glasgow, UK

The 26th COP was to take place in late 2020 in Glasgow, UK. Of course, like everything, COVID-19 changed those plans. It was instead held in late 2021.  By this time, the Paris Agreement had come into force and the US had elected President Joe Biden and rejoined the Paris Agreement. Perhaps the most publicized outcome of this meeting was that countries agreed on the need to phase down coal power and phase out subsidies for fossil fuels. As you might imagine, these were hot button issues. Some folks were particularly discouraged that coal power was only prescribed to be phased down instead of out as that doesn't align with the necessary transition to contain warming to 1.5 degrees C.

The Glasgow Pact doubles funding to help developing countries adapt to impacts and enhance their resilience. It's not enough funding, but it's a start.

A summary of the key agreements of the meeting can be found here: COP 26: Together for our planet.

2022 Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

For COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, the meeting returned to an in-person format. One of the most important results was increased awareness of and funding for LDC adaptation (e.g. through an adaptaion fund), as well as pledges to initiate a loss and damage fund that will provide financial and other support to populations who have incurred physical damage (e.g. homes) as a result of climate change. Another positive outcome was recognition that aspects of the climate change finance initiatives established in Paris need to be reconsidered (e.g. the outsized reliance on debt) in order to best help LDCs. As in other COPs, COP27 recognized that existing INDCs are not enough to achieve any of the primary Paris goals. One major sticking point was the desire by some countries to soften or eliminate language regarding the sunsetting of fossil fuels. According to WRI, "for the first time ever, the COP cover decision included a call to accelerate renewable energy deployment," which - I don't know about you - but I found shocking. Regardles, it fell short of calling an end to all fossil fuel use. In a positive development, "nature-based solutions" were officially encouraged for the first time according to WRI. (Again, such solutions are so obvious that I found this surprising. As you may have guessed, getting nearly 200 countries together for negotiations results in some political influence.)

See the UNFCCC summary and Sharm el-Sheikh implementation plan here.

2023 Dubai, UAE

This year was marked by the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The agreement to come out of the meeting in Dubai was historic in that for the first time, it specifically talked about "transitioning away from fossil fuels".  This language fell short of calling explicitly for a "phaseout of fossil fuels" and there was much (MUCH) contention around this.  But still, to be gathered in one of the biggest oil and gas producing places on the planet and have world leaders agree to language to transition away from fossil fuels is a pretty big deal.  The President of COP28 was Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the head of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.  But don't let that fool you - he spoke unequivocally of the dangers of climate change, the urgency with which we must act, and the role that fossil fuels have played and should play moving forward.  I would argue that he was uniquely positioned to bring people from the energy sector into this conversation in a way that not many other leaders could have. 

The UNFCCC has this excellent summary of the outcomes of COP28. 

But, perhaps the best summary of COP28 that I saw was from EE News right after the event and they suggested the COP28 was both historic and 30 years too late.