CCU Lesson: The Paris Agreement & Citizen-Led Climate Action

The following is the content of a Citizens’ Climate University lesson delivered Thursday, February 4, 2016, on the Paris Agreement, Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s organizing to support a strong outcome at COP21, the ongoing work of the Citizens’ Climate Engagement Network, and how all of this translates into citizen policy action in the United States.

The lesson is broken into four sections:

  1. How the UNFCCC Process Works
  2. CCL’s Paris Ground Game
  3. How the Paris Agreement Mobilizes Action
  4. What does that mean for CCL and the US?


1) How the UNFCCC Process Works

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2) CCL’s Paris Ground Game

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3) How the Paris Agreement Mobilizes Action

Article 4, Paragraph 13, of the Paris Agreement, reads:

In accounting for anthropogenic emissions and removals corresponding to their nationally determined contributions, Parties shall promote environmental integrity, transparency, accuracy, completeness, comparability and consistency, and ensure the avoidance of double counting, in accordance with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement.

That guidance will be developed in anticipation of the first CMA (COP serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement). Between now and the first CMA (likely during COP23 at the end of 2017), that guidance will be developed through consultations and collaboration in venues such as the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, and in direct policy discussion at the national level. (This includes new civic spaces we are now helping to create, through…)

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4) What does that mean for CCL and the US?

The short answer: keep going! 

There are various ways to engage, to support the building of momentum for serious, efficient, economy-building climate action the world over, but in the US, building political will for Fee and Dividend remains the highest-value domestic policy approach.

The Paris Agreement has achieved the long-standing demand of conservatives who have called for all nations to be required to participate in meeting the mandate of the 1992 UNFCCC treaty. While the 1992 Convention distinguishes between historic industrial emitting nations and developing nations (meaning China and India were not required to reduce emissions), the Paris Agreement is a unanimous agreement by all 195 Parties to the 1992 Convention that they will share the responsibilities of implementation.

It constitutes the single clearest signal to future investors about the value of low-carbon investment in 195 nations. With regular review of national climate action strategies, and an agreed mandate for escalating ambition, all 195 nations need to find the most economically efficient strategies for emissions reduction. Finance for clean development can now be linked to the requirement that all mitigation actions be coherent, transparent and avoid any double counting. This is leverage for driving greater fiscal responsibility throughout the global economy.

Climate impacts and inefficient use of resources are “macrocritical”—they create economic distortions that impose drag on the overall output of the economy in question. They also lead to political degradation that drives mass migration and conflict. Global institutions can now use their leverage to ensure major investments are made in a way that adds value, builds resilience, and ensures lower long-term disaster, conflict, and humanitarian costs.

21st century leadership in the geopolitical space is now clearly linked to the strength, efficiency, and reach, of a nation’s leadership on climate mitigation and energy and business innovation. The simple takeaway for CCL in the US is: given this new geopolitical and global economic reality, there is a best, most efficient and effective, conservative approach to leading. We need to empower our leaders by helping them line up their values with this historic moment.

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Follow up on post-Paris international actions, or support the Workstreams, at

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