Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which set legally binding emission reduction targets (as well as penalties for non-compliance) only for industrialized countries, the Paris Agreement requires all countries – rich, poor, developed and developing – to take their share and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. To this end, the Paris Agreement provides for greater flexibility: commitments that countries should make are not included, countries can voluntarily set their emissions targets and countries will not be penalized if they do not meet their proposed targets. But what the Paris agreement requires is to monitor, report and reassess, over time, the objectives of individual and collective countries, in order to bring the world closer to the broader objectives of the agreement. And the agreement stipulates that countries must announce their next round of targets every five years, contrary to the Kyoto Protocol, which was aimed at this target but which contained no specific requirements to achieve this goal. Developed countries have committed, under the UNFCCC, to support containment and adaptation efforts in developing countries. Under the Copenhagen and Cancun agreements, developed countries have pledged to mobilize $100 billion in public and private financing per year for developing countries by 2020. Although the United States and Turkey are not parties to the agreement, as they have not indicated their intention to withdraw from the 1992 UNFCCC, they will continue to be required, as an “Annex 1” country under the UNFCCC, to end national communications and establish an annual inventory of greenhouse gases.  In order to contribute to the objectives of the agreement, countries have presented comprehensive national plans to combat climate change (nationally defined contributions, NDC). These are not yet sufficient to meet the agreed temperature targets, but the agreement points to the way forward for further measures. As explained in this C2ES edition letter, the participation of the United States in the Paris Agreement can only be decided by the President, without, among other things, seeking the Council and the approval of the Senate, because of the establishment of an existing treaty, the United Nations Convention on Climate Change.
If Biden is president, he would have enough authority to join it as an “executive convention.” A strong climate agreement, supported by measures on the ground, will help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, build stronger economies and create safer, healthier and more livable societies everywhere.