n November 2015, IDDRI set out success criteria for COP21 across ten elements: (1) universal participation, (2) a legally binding agreement, (3) differentiation, (4) the 2°C goal, (5) cycles of action to keep the 2°C target in reach, (6) adaptation, (7) loss and damage, (8) finance, (9) transparency and accountability, and (10) non-state actors. The aim was to propose criteria that would significantly move forward global climate governance from the previous status quo while still being politically feasible. This note compares the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21—praised as an undeniable historic landmark of international efforts to address climate change—against these criteria. Doing so helps to show how the Agreement can indeed be qualified as a success.


  • The Paris Agreement is universal, legally binding and differentiated. (1) It was adopted by consensus by 195 countries, implying a very strong level of global buy-in. (2) It meets the requirements for a treaty under international law, and imposes obligations upon countries regarding NDCs (submission, implementation, transparency). (3) It does not establish new Annexes (cf. Kyoto Protocol) but rather nuances countries’ obligations across each of Agreement’s elements (i.e. mitigation, adaptation, support), at times specifying differing obligations in line with countries’ different national circumstances.
  • The Paris Agreement is ambitious. (4) It reaffirms the goal of maintaining global temperature rise to below 2°C, and operationalizes this target by establishing a goal to achieve net-zero global emissions between 2050 and 2100. It also calls for an aspirational goal of maintaining temperature under 1.5°C. (5) It includes the concept of cycles, whereby countries will regularly revise their national climate ambition upward in a coordinated manner, (8) and an overarching financial objective, strongly signaling to business and investors countries’ commitment toward a low-carbon future. (9) Finally, it establishes a single, unified but flexible transparency system for all countries.
  • The Paris Agreement sets up a framework for action beyond mitigation and the UNFCCC. (6) It establishes an overarching goal on adaptation, which can help create a more ‘balanced’ climate regime in which mitigation and adaptation share equal footing. (7) Even though the very scientifically, legally and politically complex issues of ‘liability’ have not yet been fully fleshed out, the inclusion in the Paris outcome of a full article on loss and damage is more than many expected. (10) The maintaining of Non-State Actor Zone for Climate (NAZCA) platform created at COP20 to track non-state actors’ initiatives shows that the UNFCCC, while remaining the center for state action, aims to help to provide an overall direction and coherence to the multitude of actions taken in other contexts.
Download the publication

PDF - 70.76 KB

4 pages