The Paris Agreement

Providing a stronger role for the local level

The Paris Accord was not only a diplomatic success in the international climate process; it has also brought forth a fundamental change of perspective compared to the Kyoto Protocol. While the Kyoto Protocol set internationally binding reduction targets, the Paris Agreement calls on nations to make their own commitments on emission reductions and adaptation measures in accordance with their national capabilities. These reduction targets are not binding under international law but they are to be reviewed every five years and must not fall short of the previous period's announcements. The problem lies in that each state can now decide for itself which measures it deems are best. In this way, concrete reductions at the national level, for example, can be combined with offsetting measures from the international carbon market. This can lead, among other things, to a dilution of the overall reductions. According to the Climate Action Tracker portal, commitments made thus far allow a warming of 3 to 4°C – very far from the agreed upon target of significantly less than 2°C.

National strategies are the central instrument in the Paris Agreement. These so-called NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) thus also serve as a vital link between the international, national and local levels. Now municipalities do not just have a theoretical obligation to participate in the drawing up of national plans, they also have been given international legitimacy – evident even in the preamble to the Paris Agreement.

By shaping the NDCs, cities and regions can make an active contribution to achieving and implementing national plans. They can also push for them to be made more ambitious. The best way to do this should be elaborated by both political representatives and city networks. In so doing, these actors should address the question of how to incorporate municipal reduction efforts into national reporting schemes. Since its establishment over 25 years ago, Climate Alliance has been calling for better integration of and cooperation between various levels of government. With the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030, committed municipalities have received strong international political support, facilitating the active implementation of this call worldwide.