Paris agreement short glossary


COP21 was the 21ˢᵗ session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention, organized by the United Nations and held from 30 November to 12 December 2015 on the Paris-Le Bourget site, and presided over by France. Every year since 1995, the Conference of the Parties (COP) has gathered the 196 Parties (195 countries and the European Union) that have ratified the Convention in a different country, to evaluate its implementation and negotiate new commitments.


Since 2005, when the Kyoto Protocol entered into force, the COP has been qualified to serve as a Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), to make decisions on the implementation of the Protocol. It includes 192 Parties, with the United States, Andorra, South Sudan and Canada not taking part. Its 11ᵗʰ session took place alongside COP21 in Le Bourget, from 30 November to 12 December 2015.


(article 16)

The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, known as the CMA, will make decisions under the agreement.

Paris agreement

COP21 closed on 12 December 2015 with the adoption of the first international climate agreement (concluded by 195 countries and applicable to all). The twelve-page text, made up of a preamble and 29 articles, provides for a limitation of the temperature rise to below 2°C and even to tend towards 1.5°C. It is flexible and takes into account the needs and capacities of each country. It is balanced as regards adaptation and mitigation, and durable, with a periodical ratcheting-up of ambitions.



According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, further information), global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the number of extreme climate events. In Copenhagen in 2009, the countries stated their determination to limit global warming to 2°C between now and 2100.


(article 7)

All measures taken by countries to reduce the impact of climate change (rise in sea level, droughts, etc.), including for example building seawalls along the coast.


(article 4)

All measures and policies introduced to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This includes, for example, promoting the development of renewable energy sources and supporting low-emission transport.


(article 2)

The notion of “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities” (CBDR-RC) is a principle of the Framework Convention, and structures the collective effort to combat climate change by distinguishing between countries based on their historic responsibility and their capabilities.


Each Party to the UNFCCC was asked to publish its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), formerly known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), to present its greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures up to 2025 or 2030. 189 countries published their action plans, which will be evaluated during a first global stocktake in 2023. In the meantime, they will be enhanced through the five-year review mechanism to increase the ambition of contributions.
On 30 October 2015, the UNFCCC secretariat published a synthesis document to determine their cumulative effect (further information). A new synthesis report incorporating the new contributions will be presented on 2 May 2016.


The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was established during COP17 in 2011 and brought together the 196 Parties to the UNFCCC. It was responsible, under the Framework Convention, for producing a new “protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force”. This agreement was adopted in 2015 and will take effect in 2020. That was the challenge of COP21. It thus finished its work during COP21.


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, with the aim of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent any dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC secretariat plays a key role in organizing the negotiations. It is headquartered in Bonn, Germany. The Executive Secretary is Christiana Figueres (further information).

Agenda of solutions or
Lima-Paris Action Agenda

This initiative seeks to encourage the development of projects promoted by civil society (businesses, NGOs, local governments, etc.), governmental organizations and governments themselves, in order to bring on board all players in the fight against climate change. Its online NAZCA (Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action) platform currently hosts more than 10,000 commitments. Further information.


NAZCA (Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action) est une plateforme qui recense les engagements en faveur de la lutte contre les changements climatiques des acteurs non-étatiques (entreprises, villes, régions et investisseurs, organisations de la société civile). Autant d’initiatives qui contribueront à la réduction rapide des émissions de gaz à effet de serre et à l’adaptation, avant 2020 et sur le long terme avec l’Agenda des solutions ou Plan d’Action Lima-Paris (PALP) qui vise à promouvoir l’ambition portée par l’Accord de Paris.
L’Agenda des solutions et NAZCA ont été lancés à Lima lors de la COP20. Leur rôle consiste à créer un élan de soutien à l’Accord de Paris.

Loss and damage

Loss and damage refers to the negative impacts of climate change, which occur despite adaptation efforts. These impacts may come in different forms: repairable or not, economic or non-economic, sudden or slow-acting.

Global Stocktake

(article 14)

The meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement will carry out in 2023, then every five years, a global stocktake of the implementation of the Paris Agreement, in order to evaluate collective progress in fulfilling the purpose of the Agreement and its long-term objectives. The results of this global stocktake will inform and guide the Parties in reviewing and enhancing their measures and support for developing countries.

Green Climate Fund

(Article 9)

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was created during the 2010 Cancún COP16 in order to help developing countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, as well as to encourage low-carbon development trajectories. It is made up of a Board of 24 members appointed for a renewable three-year term. Two Co-Chairs are elected within the membership to serve one year.

Civil society

Civil society representatives are closely involved in negotiations and have observer status during COP sessions. They are split into nine constituencies: Business and industry non-governmental organizations (BINGO), Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGO), Farmers, Indigenous peoples organizations (IPO), Local government and municipal authorities (LGMA), Research and independent non-governmental organizations (RINGO), Trade Unions non-governmental organizations (TUNGO), Women and Gender, and Youth non-governmental organizations (YOUNGO). Civil society also produces COP21-labelled projects (see projects).

Greenhouse gases

While a small quantity of greenhouse gases is produced naturally, the majority is emitted by human activities. The massive use of fossil fuels such as hydrocarbons (coal, gas and oil), deforestation, and intensive livestock and crop farming produce large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions which accumulate in the atmosphere. These emissions speed up global warming.

Climate change

The term climate change refers to the phenomenon of rising average ocean and atmospheric temperatures at global level. It is directly or indirectly attributed to human activity, which changes the composition of the global atmosphere and comes on top of the natural variability of the climate observed over comparable periods.


An energy source is said to be renewable when it is naturally renewed constantly. There are six categories of renewable energy sources: hydraulic, wind, solar, marine, biomass (combustion of matter such as agricultural waste, which produces electricity) and geothermal (such as underground heat used to heat water).


“Party” is the term for a signatory or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 196 Parties (195 countries plus the European Union) (see list) have signed up to the UNFCCC. The Framework Convention is an international treaty that officially acknowledges the existence of climate change and human responsibility for this phenomenon. In particular, it sets out the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are involved in global warming.


(article 13)

In order to build mutual confidence and promote effective implementation, the Paris Agreement establishes an enhanced transparency framework to make measures and assistance verifiable. This framework will apply to all parties, taking into account national capabilities.

Kyoto protocol

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and took effect in 2005, setting for the first time quantified greenhouse gas reduction commitments for developed countries between 2008 and 2012. As the only legally binding international instrument, it has been extended until 2020, when the Paris Agreement will enter into force.


The energy transition seeks to prepare for the post-oil world and establish a new, more robust and sustainable energy model to address energy supply challenges, price changes, scarce resources and the requirements of environmental protection.