Canada: Historic, Durable And Ambitious? UNFCCC Member Nations Adopt The Paris Agreement

The Paris Agreement is a monumental triumph for people and our planet. It sets the stage for progress in ending poverty, strengthening peace and ensuring a life of dignity and opportunity for all.

– United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (December 12, 2015)

On December 12, 2015, after two weeks of marathon negotiations at the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP 21), 195 member nations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – including Canada, the United States, and a number of powerful developing countries including China and India – adopted the Paris Agreement (the Agreement) to cut global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and implement actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.

As discussed in a previous post, the Agreement stands in contrast to the anticlimactic Copenhagen Accord of 2009 which had originally aimed to achieve similar results to the Paris Agreement, but did not deliver. Hailed as being "historic, durable and ambitious", the Paris Agreement will enter into force 30 days after the date on which at least 55 parties to the UNFCCC (there are currently 196 parties to the UNFCCC, including 195 states and one regional economic integration organization), accounting for at least 55% of total global GHG emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited world leaders to the United Nations on the next Earth Day – April 22, 2016 – to a formal signing ceremony for the Agreement. It has also been announced that the United Nations will organize an "action summit" on May 5-6, 2016 for governments, business and civil society to focus on implementing the deal.

Key outcomes of COP 21 are embodied in the Agreement and include both binding and non-binding commitments in all areas identified as essential for a successful landmark conclusion, including mitigation, adaptation, "loss and damage", transparency, finance, and technology development and transfer.

Highlights of the Paris Agreement

  • Temperature Limit: All countries have agreed to hold the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree Celsius.
  • Long-Term Emissions Goal: To complement the temperature limit, the Agreement also includes a long-term emissions goal of peaking global greenhouse gas "as soon as possible" to achieve balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removal of GHG emissions by sinks in the second half of the century. This means reaching net zero emissions after 2050, however there is no corresponding timeline or details about how the delayed peak by developing countries will be balanced. In 2018, member parties will convene a facilitative dialogue to assess their collective efforts in relation to their progress towards the long-term goal. The outcomes of this dialogue will likely inform future climate policies and actions.
  • Mitigation: While member nations are required to put forward "Nationally Determined Contributions" (NDCs) (plans which set out what post-2020 climate actions countries intend to take under the new international climate agreement), the pledges by countries to reduce emissions are voluntary and there are no legal requirements around how – or how much – countries should reduce emissions. Starting in 2020, countries will be required to update their commitments every 5 years. Parties are encouraged to increase the level of ambition with each update of their plans. Developing countries are encouraged to move toward stricter goals.
  • Adaptation: The Agreement establishes a global goal of "enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change". The agreement also recognizes that greater levels of mitigation can reduce the need for additional adaptation efforts, although the current need for adaptation is significant.
  • Loss and Damage: There is an express acknowledgment of "the importance of averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change." For the first time, language relating to "loss and damage" has been included in an international agreement. However, the wording of the Agreement is such that while "loss and damage" from climate-related disasters was acknowledged, there was no accompanying linkage of compensation and liability to such events. During the negotiations, Canada, the United States and other developed countries rejected the notion of any kind of legal liability for loss and damage resulting from adverse climate impacts.
  • Transparency: The Agreement establishes an enhanced transparency framework for action and support, with built-in flexibility which takes into account parties' different capacities and builds upon collective experience. Parties will be required to account for progress towards their NDCs, including monitoring, verification and reporting. Reporting will be completed in accordance with standardized guidance adopted by the parties.
  • Finance: The Agreement places a legal obligation on developed countries to continue to provide climate finance to developing countries. It also encourages other countries to provide voluntary support. The issue of funding for developing countries was hotly debated during negotiations. Although multiple developed countries have announced commitments to finance such efforts (including Canada, which announced a commitment of over $2.65 billion prior to COP 21), strong resistance was raised during COP 21 to a legally binding financial commitment. As a result, many of the climate finance details are not set out within the legally binding provisions of the Agreement and the goal of at least $100 billion per year in contributions from developed countries is mentioned only in the non-binding preamble of the Agreement.

What does the Agreement mean for Canada?

In May 2015, Canada submitted its intended NDC to the UNFCCC Secretariat, pledging a 30% reduction from 2005 levels – approximately 523 Mt – by 2030. In its Sixth National Report on Climate Change, Environment Canada projected Canada's emissions to be 815 Mt CO2e, or 11% above 2005 levels, with current measures in place. Given the overall increase in Canada's emissions over the past two decades and continuing upwards trajectory, achieving Canada's NDC will require ambitious federal and provincial policies. The new federal Liberal government has indicated that it will meet with provincial and territorial premiers within 90 days of COP 21. Following consultation with the provinces and territories, the federal government is expected to update Canada's NDC. This was confirmed by Canada's Environment Minister in November 2015 when she stated that the current NDC will be considered a floor for future action. As a result, it is widely expected that a new federal climate change strategy will call for more stringent targets and actions. However, the provinces and territories will have the flexibility to design their own climate change policies to meet Canada's commitments, including their own carbon pricing regimes.

Now that the Paris climate talks have reached a successful outcome, Canada's first legislative step will likely be to table the Agreement in the House of Commons prior to the executive taking steps for the ratification and other preliminary matters such as the introduction of legislation. In terms of policy, a Canada-wide climate change strategy may include some or all of the following (as set out in the federal Liberal Party's election platform):

  • policies providing federal funding for provincial and territorial climate change programs, including adaptation measures and investments in green infrastructure;
  • creation a new $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Trust that will provide funding to projects that materially reduce carbon emissions under a new pan-Canadian framework;
  • actions to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry in the medium-term, including restricting the availability of the Canadian Exploration Expenses Tax Deduction; and
  • efforts to negotiate a clean energy and environment agreement with United States and Mexico.

At the provincial level, the first half of 2016 will be a busy one as both Alberta and BC look to finalize the details of their climate change strategies and Ontario looks to release the final design parameters of its cap-and-trade program, which is expected to come online in 2017. For more information on provincial and territorial climate change programs and regulations, please refer to our Climate Change Essentials guide.

The process for renewing Canada's climate action plan is only just starting now, but Canada has already expressed its support for more ambitious climate action by endorsing the global goal of keeping rising average temperatures to within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. How this ambition will translate into federal, provincial and municipal climate action remains to be seen. One thing is clear: in 2016, federal and provincial/territorial policy makers, businesses, non-governmental organizations and individuals will come together in a collective conversation about the kinds of policies and actions that will be needed to bring Canada closer to meeting its commitments under the Agreement.

To view original article, please click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions