Treaty of Paris - Definition, Date and Terms

Treaty of Paris - Definition, Date and Terms


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The Treaty of Paris of 1783 formally ended the American Revolutionary War. American statesmen Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay negotiated the peace treaty with representatives of King George III of Great Britain. In the Treaty of Paris, the British Crown formally recognized American independence and ceded most of its territory east of the Mississippi River to the United States, doubling the size of the new nation and paving the way for westward expansion.

The Revolutionary War

In the fall of 1781, American and British troops fought the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War in Yorktown, Virginia.

A combined American and French force, led by George Washington and French General Comte de Rochambeau, completely surrounded and captured British General Charles Cornwallis and about 9,000 British troops during the Siege of Yorktown.

When news of the British defeat at Yorktown reached England, support for the war in America faded in both the British Parliament and the public. England agreed to begin peace negotiations with the Americans to end the Revolutionary War.

Peace Negotiations

After Yorktown, the Continental Congress appointed a small group of statesmen to travel to Europe and negotiate a peace treaty with the British: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens.

Jefferson, however, was not able to leave the United States for the negotiations, and Laurens had been captured by a British warship and held captive in the Tower of London until the end of the war, so the principal American negotiators were Franklin, Adams and Jay.

Franklin, who served as America’s first ambassador to France, had been in Paris since the start of the Revolution and was instrumental in securing French assistance during the war. Peace negotiations between British and American diplomats began there in the spring of 1782 and continued into the fall.

The British wanted to end the costly war, but peace negotiations stalled when England wouldn’t recognize United States independence – a point on which the American delegation refused to budge. After the election of a new, more pro-American Parliament, Great Britain soon gave in and accepted terms of American independence.

Treaty of Paris Terms

In 1782, the newly elected British Prime Minister Lord Shelburne saw American independence as an opportunity to build a lucrative trade alliance with the new nation without the administrative and military costs of running and defending the colonies.

As a result, Treaty of Paris terms were very favorable to the United States with Great Britain making major concessions.

The treaty, signed by Franklin, Adams and Jay at the Hotel d’York in Paris, was finalized on September 3, 1783, and ratified by the Continental Congress on January 14, 1784.

Here are the key terms of the Treaty of Paris:

  • Great Britain finally gave formal recognition to its former colonies as a new and independent nation: the United States of America.
  • Defined the U.S. border, with Great Britain granting the Northwest Territory to the United States.
  • Secured fishing rights to the Grand Banks and other waters off the British-Canadian coastline for American boats.
  • Opened up the Mississippi River to navigation by citizens of both the United States and Great Britain.
  • Resolved issues with American debts owed to British creditors.
  • Provided for fair treatment of American citizens who had remained loyal to Great Britain during the war.

Northwest Territory

Perhaps as important as U.S. independence, the Treaty of Paris also established generous boundaries for the new nation. As part of the agreement, the British ceded a vast area known as the Northwest Territory to the United States.

The Northwest Territory – which included the present-day states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota – doubled the land area of the United States and helped set the stage for the westward expansion that was to come over the next century.

Peace of Paris

In addition to the American colonists, other nations including France, Spain and the Netherlands fought against the British during the American Revolution. Alongside the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain signed separate peace treaties with each these nations in September 1783.

In the treaties, known collectively as the Peace of Paris, Great Britain returned to Spain parts of Florida that it had won in the last Treaty of Paris. (Spain had ceded Spanish Florida to the British Empire in 1763 at the culmination of the French and Indian War.)

Treaty of Paris Aftermath

Though the Treaty of Paris, 1783 formally ended the war for independence between America and Great Britain, tensions continued to rise between the two nations over issues that remained unresolved by the treaty.

The British, for instance, refused to relinquish several of its forts in the former Northwest Territory, while the Americans, for their part, continued to confiscate property from citizens that had remained loyal to the British Crown during the war.

In 1795, John Jay returned to Europe to resolve these issues with Great Britain. The resulting agreement, known as Jay’s Treaty, helped to delay another costly war between the two countries.

SOURCES

Treaty of Paris, 1783; U.S. Office of the Historian.

Treaty of Paris; Library of Congress.


Treaty of Paris (1783)

The Treaty of Paris, signed in Paris by representatives of King George III of Great Britain and representatives of the United States of America on September 3, 1783, officially ended the American Revolutionary War. The treaty set the boundaries between the British Empire in North America and the United States of America, on lines "exceedingly generous" to the latter. [2] Details included fishing rights and restoration of property and prisoners of war.

This treaty and the separate peace treaties between Great Britain and the nations that supported the American cause—France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic—are known collectively as the Peace of Paris. [3] [4] Only Article 1 of the treaty, which acknowledges the United States' existence as a free, sovereign, and independent state, remains in force. [5]


Background

The meeting was part of a process dating back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, when countries initially joined the international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Seeing the need to strengthen emission reductions, in 1997, countries adopted the Kyoto Protocol. That protocol legally bound developed countries to emission reduction targets. However, the agreement was widely believed to be ineffective because the world’s two top carbon dioxide-emitting countries, China and the United States, chose not to participate. China, a developing country, was not bound by the Kyoto Protocol, and many U.S. government officials used this fact to justify U.S. nonparticipation.

At the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18), held in Doha, Qatar, in 2012, delegates agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol until 2020. They also reaffirmed their pledge from COP17, which had been held in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, to create a new, comprehensive, legally binding climate treaty by 2015 that would require all countries—including major carbon emitters not abiding by the Kyoto Protocol—to limit and reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

In the lead-up to the Paris meeting, the UN tasked countries to submit plans detailing how they intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those plans were technically referred to as intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). By December 10, 2015, 185 countries had submitted measures to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 or 2030. The U.S. announced in 2014 its intention to reduce its emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. To help accomplish that goal, the country’s Clean Power Plan was to set limits on existing and planned power plant emissions. China, the country with the largest total greenhouse gas emissions, set its target for the peaking of its carbon dioxide emissions “around 2030 and making best efforts to peak early.” Chinese officials also endeavoured to lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 60–65 percent from the 2005 level.

India’s INDC noted the challenges of eradicating poverty while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. About 24 percent of the global population without access to electricity (304 million) resided in India. Nevertheless, the country planned to “reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030” versus the 2005 levels. The country also sought to derive about 40 percent of its electric power from renewable energy sources rather than from fossil fuels by 2030. The INDC noted that the implementation plans would not be affordable from domestic resources: it estimated that at least $2.5 trillion would be needed to accomplish climate-change actions through 2030. India would achieve that goal with the help of technology transfer (the movement of skills and equipment from more-developed countries to less-developed countries [LDCs]) and international finance, including assistance from the Green Climate Fund (a program designed to assist, through investments in low-emission technologies and climate-resilient development, populations vulnerable to the effects of climate change).


Treaty of Paris

In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.

Source: United States. Department of State, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949 (compiled under the direction of Charles I. Bevans), vol. 12 (1974), pp. 8–12.

It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse, between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony and having for this desirable end already laid the foundation of peace and reconciliation by the Provisional Articles signed at Paris on the 30th of November 1782, by the commissioners empowered on each part, which articles were agreed to be inserted in and to constitute the Treaty of Peace proposed to be concluded between the Crown of Great Britain and the said United States, but which treaty was not to be concluded until terms of peace should be agreed upon between Great Britain and France and his Britannic Majesty should be ready to conclude such treaty accordingly and the treaty between Great Britain and France having since been concluded, his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, in order to carry into full effect the Provisional Articles above mentioned, according to the tenor thereof, have constituted and appointed, that is to say his Britannic Majesty on his part, David Hartley, Esqr., member of the Parliament of Great Britain, and the said United States on their part, John Adams, Esqr., late a commissioner of the United States of America at the court of Versailles, late delegate in Congress from the state of Massachusetts, and chief justice of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary of the said United States to their high mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands Benjamin Franklin, Esqr., late delegate in Congress from the state of Pennsylvania, president of the convention of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America at the court of Versailles John Jay, Esqr., late president of Congress and chief justice of the state of New York, and minister plenipotentiary from the said United States at the court of Madrid to be the plenipotentiaries for the concluding and signing the present definitive treaty who after having reciprocally communicated their respective full powers have agreed upon and confirmed the following articles.

ARTICLE 1

His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.

ARTICLE 2

And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz.: from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz., that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario through the middle of said lake until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie, through the middle of said lake until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron thence along the middle of said water communication into the Lake Huron, thence through the middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior thence through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake thence through the middle of said Long Lake and the water communication between it and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods thence through the said lake to the most northwestern point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude. South, by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last mentioned in the latitude of thirty-one degrees north of the equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouche thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint River, thence straight to the head of Saint Mary's River and thence down along the middle of Saint Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean east, by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river Saint Croix, from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those which fall into the river Saint Lawrence comprehending all islands within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States, and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one part and East Florida on the other shall, respectively, touch the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean, excepting such islands as now are or heretofore have been within the limits of the said province of Nova Scotia.

ARTICLE 3

It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish. And also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland as British fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on that island) and also on the coasts, bays, and creeks of all other of his Britannic Majesty's dominions in America and that the American fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled, but so soon as the same or either of them shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement without a previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors, or possessors of the ground.

ARTICLE 4

It is agreed that creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted.

ARTICLE 5

It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession of his Majesty's arms and who have not borne arms against the said United States. And that persons of any other description shall have free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United States and therein to remain twelve months unmolested in their endeavors to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights, and properties as may have been confiscated and that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states a reconsideration and revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent not only with justice and equity but with that spirit of conciliation which on the return of the blessings of peace should universally prevail. And that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states that the estates, rights, and properties, of such last mentioned persons shall be restored to them, they refunding to any persons who may be now in possession the bona fide price (where any has been given) which such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights, or properties since the confiscation.

And it is agreed that all persons who have any interest in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settlements, or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impediment in the prosecution of their just rights.

ARTICLE 6

That there shall be no future confiscations made nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of, the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, and that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, or property and that those who may be in confinement on such charges at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued.

ARTICLE 7

There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Britannic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease. All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Britannic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the same leaving in all fortifications, the American artillery that may be therein and shall also order and cause all archives, records, deeds, and papers belonging to any of the said states, or their citizens, which in the course of the war may have fallen into the hands of his officers, to be forthwith restored and delivered to the proper states and persons to whom they belong.

ARTICLE 8

The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States.

ARTICLE 9

In case it should so happen that any place or territory belonging to Great Britain or to the United States should have been conquered by the arms of either from the other before the arrival of the said Provisional Articles in America, it is agreed that the same shall be restored without difficulty and without requiring any compensation.

ARTICLE 10

The solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner, if possible, to be computed from the day of the signature of the present treaty. In witness whereof we the undersigned, their ministers plenipotentiary, have in their name and in virtue of our full powers, signed with our hands the present definitive treaty and caused the seals of our arms to be affixed thereto.

Done at Paris, this third day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three.


Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris of 1783 ended the War of Independence and granted the thirteen colonies political freedom. A preliminary treaty between Great Britain and the United States had been signed in 1782, but the final agreement was not signed until September 3, 1783.

Peace negotiations began in Paris, France, in April 1782. The U.S. delegation included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, and Henry Laurens, while the British were represented by Richard Oswald and Henry Strachey. The negotiators concluded the preliminary treaty on November 30, 1782, but the agreement was not effective until Great Britain concluded treaties with France and Spain concerning foreign colonies.

In the final agreement, the British recognized the independence of the United States. The treaty established generous boundaries for the United States U.S. territory now extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River in the west, and from the Great Lakes and Canada in the north to the 31st parallel in the south. The U.S. fishing fleet was guaranteed access to the fisheries off the coast of Newfoundland with their plentiful supply of cod.

Navigation of the Mississippi River was to be open to both the United States and Great Britain. Creditors of both countries were not to be impeded from collecting their debts, and Congress was to recommend to the states that loyalists to the British cause during the war should be treated fairly and their rights and confiscated property restored.

Treaty of Paris

In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.

Source: United States. Department of State, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776� (compiled under the direction of Charles I. Bevans), vol. 12 (1974), pp. 8�.

It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch-treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse, between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony and having for this desirable end already laid the foundation of peace and reconciliation by the Provisional Articles signed at Paris on the 30th of November 1782, by the commissioners empowered on each part, which articles were agreed to be inserted in and to constitute the Treaty of Peace proposed to be concluded between the Crown of Great Britain and the said United States, but which treaty was not to be concluded until terms of peace should be agreed upon between Great Britain and France and his Britannic Majesty should be ready to conclude such treaty accordingly and the treaty between Great Britain and France having since been concluded, his Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, in order to carry into full effect the Provisional Articles above mentioned, according to the tenor thereof, have constituted and appointed, that is to say his Britannic Majesty on his part, David Hartley, Esqr., member of the Parliament of Great Britain, and the said United States on their part, John Adams, Esqr., late a commissioner of the United States of America at the court of Versailles, late delegate in Congress from the state of Massachusetts, and chief justice of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary of the said United States to their high mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands Benjamin Franklin, Esqr., late delegate in Congress from the state of Pennsylvania, president of the convention of the said state, and minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America at the court of Versailles John Jay, Esqr., late president of Congress and chief justice of the state of New York, and minister plenipotentiary from the said United States at the court of Madrid to be the plenipotentiaries for the concluding and signing the present definitive treaty who after having reciprocally communicated their respective full powers have agreed upon and confirmed the following articles.

ARTICLE 1

His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be free sovereign and independent states, that he treats with them as such, and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety, and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.

ARTICLE 2

And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented, it is hereby agreed and declared, that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz.: from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz., that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence, from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario through the middle of said lake until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie, through the middle of said lake until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron thence along the middle of said water communication into the Lake Huron, thence through the middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior thence through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake thence through the middle of said Long Lake and the water communication between it and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods thence through the said lake to the most northwestern point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude. South, by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last mentioned in the latitude of thirty-one degrees north of the equator, to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouche thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint River, thence straight to the head of Saint Mary's River and thence down along the middle of Saint Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean east, by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river Saint Croix, from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those which fall into the river Saint Lawrence comprehending all islands within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States, and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one part and East Florida on the other shall, respectively, touch the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean, excepting such islands as now are or heretofore have been within the limits of the said province of Nova Scotia.

ARTICLE 3

It is agreed that the people of the United States shall continue to enjoy unmolested the right to take fish of every kind on the Grand Bank and on all the other banks of Newfoundland, also in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and at all other places in the sea, where the inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish. And also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland as British fishermen shall use, (but not to dry or cure the same on that island) and also on the coasts, bays, and creeks of all other of his Britannic Majesty's dominions in America and that the American fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands, and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled, but so soon as the same or either of them shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement without a previous agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors, or possessors of the ground.

ARTICLE 4

It is agreed that creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted.

ARTICLE 5

It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the legislatures of the respective states to provide for the restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been confiscated belonging to real British subjects and also of the estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the possession of his Majesty's arms and who have not borne arms against the said United States. And that persons of any other description shall have free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United States and therein to remain twelve months unmolested in their endeavors to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights, and properties as may have been confiscated and that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states a reconsideration and revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render the said laws or acts perfectly consistent not only with justice and equity but with that spirit of conciliation which on the return of the blessings of peace should universally prevail. And that Congress shall also earnestly recommend to the several states that the estates, rights, and properties, of such last mentioned persons shall be restored to them, they refunding to any persons who may be now in possession the bona fide price (where any has been given) which such persons may have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights, or properties since the confiscation.

And it is agreed that all persons who have any interest in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settlements, or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impediment in the prosecution of their just rights.

ARTICLE 6

That there shall be no future confiscations made nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of, the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, and that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage, either in his person, liberty, or property and that those who may be in confinement on such charges at the time of the ratification of the treaty in America shall be immediately set at liberty, and the prosecutions so commenced be discontinued.

ARTICLE 7

There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his Britannic Majesty and the said states, and between the subjects of the one and the citizens of the other, wherefore all hostilities both by sea and land shall from henceforth cease. All prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Britannic Majesty shall with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any Negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the same leaving in all fortifications, the American artillery that may be therein and shall also order and cause all archives, records, deeds, and papers belonging to any of the said states, or their citizens, which in the course of the war may have fallen into the hands of his officers, to be forthwith restored and delivered to the proper states and persons to whom they belong.

ARTICLE 8

The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States.

ARTICLE 9

In case it should so happen that any place or territory belonging to Great Britain or to the United States should have been conquered by the arms of either from the other before the arrival of the said Provisional Articles in America, it is agreed that the same shall be restored without difficulty and without requiring any compensation.

ARTICLE 10

The solemn ratifications of the present treaty expedited in good and due form shall be exchanged between the contracting parties in the space of six months or sooner, if possible, to be computed from the day of the signature of the present treaty. In witness whereof we the undersigned, their ministers plenipotentiary, have in their name and in virtue of our full powers, signed with our hands the present definitive treaty and caused the seals of our arms to be affixed thereto.

Done at Paris, this third day of September in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three.


Negotiations in Paris

Peace negotiations between representatives of the United States and Spain began in Paris on October 1, 1898. The American contingent demanded that Spain acknowledge and guarantee the independence of Cuba and transfer possession of the Philippines to the United States. In addition, the U.S. demanded that Spain pay Cuba’s estimated $400 million national debt.

After agreeing to Cuban independence, Spain reluctantly agreed to sell the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million. Spain also agreed to pay back the $400 million Cuban debt by transferring possession of Puerto Rico and the Mariana island of Guam to the United States.

Spain demanded that it be allowed to retain possession of the Philippines capital city of Manila—which had been captured by U.S. forces hours after the August 12 cease-fire had been declared. The United States refused to consider the demand. Representatives of Spain and the U.S. signed the treaty on December 10, 1898, leaving it up to the two nation’s governments to ratify it.

While Spain signed the agreement days later, ratification was strongly opposed in the U.S. Senate by senators who viewed it as instituting an unconstitutional policy of American “imperialism” in the Philippines. After weeks of debate, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on February 6, 1899 by a single vote. The Treaty of Paris took effect on April 11, 1899, when the U.S. and Spain exchanged documents of ratification.


Exchange of Territories

During the war, Great Britain conquered the French colonies of Canada, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago, the French trading posts in India, the slave-trading station at Gorée, the Sénégal River and its settlements, and the Spanish colonies of Manila in the Philippines and Havana in Cuba. France captured Minorca and British trading posts in Sumatra, while Spain captured the border fortress of Almeida in Portugal and Colonia del Sacramento in South America.

In the treaty, most of these territories were restored to their original owners, although Britain made considerable gains. France and Spain restored all their conquests to Britain and Portugal. Britain restored Manila and Havana to Spain, and Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Gorée, and the Indian trading posts to France. In return, France ceded Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago to Britain. France also ceded the eastern half of French Louisiana to Britain (the area from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains). In addition, while France regained its trading posts in India, France recognized British clients as the rulers of key Indian native states and pledged not to send troops to Bengal. Britain agreed to demolish its fortifications in British Honduras (now Belize), but retained a logwood-cutting colony there. Although the Protestant British feared Roman Catholics, Great Britain did not want to antagonize France through expulsion or forced conversion. Also, it did not want French settlers to leave Canada to strengthen other French settlements in North America. Consequently, Great Britain decided to protect Roman Catholics living in Canada.

The Treaty of Paris is sometimes noted as the point at which France gave Louisiana to Spain. The transfer, however, occurred with the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762) but was not publicly announced until 1764. The Treaty of Paris was to give Britain the east side of the Mississippi (including Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which was to be part of the British territory of West Florida) – except for the Île d’Orléans (historic name for the New Orleans area), which was granted to Spain, along with the territory to the west – the larger portion of Louisiana.The Mississippi River corridor in modern-day Louisiana was to be reunited following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819.

“A new map of North America,” produced following the Treaty of Paris (1763).

The Anglo-French hostilities ended in 1763 with Treaty of Paris, which involved a complex series of land exchanges, the most important being France’s cession to Spain of Louisiana, and to Great Britain the rest of New France except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Faced with the choice of retrieving either New France or its Caribbean island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, France chose the latter to retain these lucrative sources of sugar, writing off New France as an unproductive, costly territory.


The Paris Peace Conference and the Treaty of Versailles

The Paris Peace Conference convened in January 1919 at Versailles just outside Paris . The conference was called to establish the terms of the peace after World War I. Though nearly thirty nations participated, the representatives of the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and Italy became known as the “Big Four.” The “Big Four” dominated the proceedings that led to the formulation of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty that ended World War I.

The Treaty of Versailles articulated the compromises reached at the conference. It included the planned formation of the League of Nations, which would serve both as an international forum and an international collective security arrangement. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was a strong advocate of the League as he believed it would prevent future wars.

Negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference were complicated. The United Kingdom, France, and Italy fought together as the Allied Powers during the First World War. The United States, entered the war in April 1917 as an Associated Power. While it fought alongside the Allies, the United States was not bound to honor pre-existing agreements among the Allied Powers. These agreements focused on postwar redistribution of territories. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson strongly opposed many of these arrangements, including Italian demands on the Adriatic. This often led to significant disagreements among the “Big Four.”

Treaty negotiations were also weakened by the absence of other important nations. Russia had fought as one of the Allies until December 1917, when its new Bolshevik Government withdrew from the war. The Bolshevik decision to repudiate Russia’s outstanding financial debts to the Allies and to publish the texts of secret agreements between the Allies concerning the postwar period angered the Allies. The Allied Powers refused to recognize the new Bolshevik Government and thus did not invite its representatives to the Peace Conference. The Allies also excluded the defeated Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria).


Paris Climate Agreement: Everything You Need to Know

“A world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free.” In December 2015, that was the world then-president Barack Obama envisioned we would leave today’s children when he announced that the United States, along with nearly 200 other countries, had committed to the Paris Climate Agreement, an ambitious global action plan to fight climate change.

But less than two years later, then-president Donald Trump put that future in jeopardy by announcing his plan to withdraw the United States from the accord—a step that became official on November 4, 2020—as part of a larger effort to dismantle decades of U.S. environmental policy. Fortunately, American voters also got their say in November 2020, ousting Trump and sending Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to the White House.

Following President Biden’s day one executive order, the United States officially rejoined the landmark Paris Agreement on February 19, 2021, positioning the country to once again be part of the global climate solution. Meanwhile, city, state, business, and civic leaders across the country and around the world have been ramping up efforts to drive the clean energy advances needed to meet the goals of the agreement and put the brakes on dangerous climate change.

Here’s a look at what the Paris Agreement does, how it works, and why it’s so critical to our future.

Protesters gather near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France during the 2015 UN Climate Conference.

What Is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a landmark international accord that was adopted by nearly every nation in 2015 to address climate change and its negative impacts. The agreement aims to substantially reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, while pursuing the means to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. The agreement includes commitments from all major emitting countries to cut their climate pollution and to strengthen those commitments over time. The pact provides a pathway for developed nations to assist developing nations in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts, and it creates a framework for the transparent monitoring, reporting, and ratcheting up of countries’ individual and collective climate goals.

Presidencia de la Republica Mexicana via Flickr

History of the Paris Agreement

Hammered out over two weeks in Paris during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) and adopted on December 12, 2015, the Paris Agreement marked a historic turning point for global climate action, as world leaders came to a consensus on an accord comprised of commitments by 195 nations to combat climate change and adapt to its impacts.

President Obama was able to formally enter the United States into the agreement under international law through executive authority, since it imposed no new legal obligations on the country. The United States has a number of tools already on the books, under laws already passed by Congress, to cut carbon pollution. The country formally joined the agreement in September 2016 after submitting its proposal for participation. The Paris Agreement could not take effect until at least 55 nations representing at least 55 percent of global emissions had formally joined. This happened on October 5, 2016, and the agreement went into force 30 days later on November 4, 2016.

How Many Countries Are in the Paris Agreement?

Since 2015, 197 countries—nearly every nation on earth, with the last signatory being war-torn Syria—have endorsed the Paris Agreement. Of those, 190 have solidified their support with formal approval. The major emitting countries that have yet to formally join the agreement are Iran, Turkey, and Iraq.

Susan Walsh/Associated Press

The Paris Agreement and Trump

Following through on a campaign promise, Trump—a climate denier who has claimed climate change is a “hoax”—announced in June 2017 his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement and officially pulled the nation out on November 4, 2020—the earliest possible date under the agreement and a day after the presidential election. Thankfully, even a formal withdrawal can be reversed since a future president can rejoin.

Despite Trump’s announcement in 2017, U.S. envoys continued to participate—as mandated—in U.N. climate negotiations to solidify details of the agreement. Meanwhile, thousands of leaders nationwide stepped in to fill the void created by the lack of federal climate leadership, reflecting the will of the vast majority of Americans who support the Paris Agreement. Among city and state officials, business leaders, universities, and private citizens, there has been a groundswell of participation in initiatives such as America’s Pledge, the United States Climate Alliance, We Are Still In, and the American Cities Climate Challenge. The complementary and sometimes overlapping movements aim to deepen and accelerate efforts to tackle climate change at the local, regional, and national levels.

The Paris Agreement and Biden

On his first day in office, President Biden sent a letter to the United Nations, formally signaling that the United States would rejoin the Paris Agreement. Thirty days later (as is required), on February 19, 2021, the nation was re-entered.

This new era of U.S. climate leadership represents our last, best chance to course-correct in the global race to tackle climate change. In fact, the Biden’s climate plan is the most comprehensive ever undertaken by a U.S. president—and he intends to rally international leaders to cut emissions even more aggressively than under the goals of the Paris Agreement. As Biden and Vice President Harris fight to pull the nation out of the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, they can do so in ways that support climate justice and a clean energy economy.

Paris Agreement Summary

The 32-page document establishes a framework for global climate action, including the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, the transparent reporting and strengthening of climate goals, and support for developing nations. Here’s what it aims to do:

The Sinclair Oil Refinery in Sinclair, Wyoming

Limit global temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In an effort to “significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change,” the accord calls for limiting the global average temperature rise in this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. It also asks countries to work to achieve a leveling off of global greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral in the second half of this century. In 2018, the IPCC’s Special Report: Global Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius concluded the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsuis could mean substantially more poverty, extreme heat, sea level rise, habitat loss, and drought.

To achieve the Paris Agreement’s original objectives, 186 countries—responsible for more than 90 percent of global emissions—submitted carbon reduction targets, known as “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs), prior to the Paris conference. These targets outlined each country’s commitments for curbing emissions (including through the preservation of carbon sinks) through 2025 or 2030, including economy-wide carbon-cutting goals.

INDCs turn into NDCs—nationally determined contributions—once a country formally joins the agreement. There are no specific requirements about how or how much countries should cut emissions, but there have been political expectations about the type and stringency of targets by various countries based on the latest science. As a result, national plans vary greatly in scope and ambition, largely reflecting each country’s capabilities, its level of development, and its contribution to emissions over time. China, for example, committed to leveling off its carbon emissions no later than 2030. India set its sights on cutting emissions intensity by 33 to 35 percent below 2005 levels and generating 40 percent of its electricity from non–fossil fuel sources by 2030.

The United States—the world’s largest historical emitter and the second-biggest current emitter after China—had committed to cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. U.S. initiatives to achieve the target include the Clean Power Plan (a state-by-state program to cut carbon pollution from the power sector) and the tightening of automotive fuel economy standards to reduce transportation emissions—both policies the Trump administration fought hard to roll back and which the Biden/Harris administration has committed to strengthening.

Smog covers the city of Taiwan.

Provide a framework for transparency, accountability, and the achievement of more ambitious targets.

The Paris Agreement includes a series of mandatory measures for the monitoring, verification, and public reporting of progress toward a country’s emissions-reduction targets. The enhanced transparency rules apply common frameworks for all countries, with accommodations and support provided for nations that currently lack the capacity to strengthen their systems.

Among other requirements, countries must report their greenhouse gas inventories and progress relative to their targets, allowing outside experts to evaluate their success. Countries are also expected to revisit their pledges and put forward progressively stronger targets every five years, with the goal of further driving down emissions. Nations must participate in a “global stocktake” to measure collective efforts toward meeting the Paris Agreement’s long-term goals as well. Meanwhile, developed countries also have to estimate how much financial assistance they’ll allocate to developing nations to help them reduce emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

These transparency and accountability provisions are similar to those in the frameworks of other international agreements. While the system doesn’t include financial penalties, the requirements are aimed at making the progress of individual nations easy to track and fostering a sense of global peer pressure, discouraging any dragging of feet among countries that may consider doing so.

Mobilize support for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing nations.

Recognizing that many developing countries and small island nations that have contributed the least to climate change could suffer the most from its consequences, the Paris Agreement includes a plan for developed countries—and others “in a position to do so”—to continue to provide financial resources to help developing countries mitigate and increase resilience to climate change. For instance, India’s pledge includes the need to eradicate poverty in parallel with decreasing emissions and increasing renewable energy, such as addressing energy poverty and access in remote villages that rely on diesel generators. With technological and financial help from wealthier countries, important equity-focused goals such as these can be within reach. The Paris Agreement builds on the financial commitments of the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, which aimed to scale up public and private climate finance for developing nations to $100 billion a year by 2020. The Copenhagen pact also created the Green Climate Fund to help mobilize transformational private finance using targeted public dollars. The Paris Agreement established the expectation that the world would set a higher annual goal by 2025 to build on the $100 billion target for 2020 and would put mechanisms in place to achieve that scaling up. Unfortunately, collective contributions continue to fall short, reaching approximately $79 billion in 2019.

While developed nations are not legally bound to contribute a specific amount to the mitigation and adaptation efforts of developing countries, they are encouraged to provide financial support and are required to report on the financing they supply or will mobilize.

Why Is the Paris Agreement Important?

Rarely is there consensus among nearly all nations on a single topic. But with the Paris Agreement, leaders from around the world collectively agreed that climate change is driven by human behavior, that it’s a threat to the environment and all of humanity, and that global action is needed to stop it. It also created a clear framework for all countries to make emissions reduction commitments and strengthen those actions over time. Here are some key reasons why the agreement is so important:

Human-generated emissions cause global warming.

Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are gases that collect in the atmosphere and prevent heat from radiating from earth’s surface into space, creating what’s known as the greenhouse effect. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading international scientific body studying the subject, the concentration of these heat-trapping gases has increased substantially since preindustrial times to levels not seen in at least 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide (the chief contributor to climate change) is up by 40 percent, nitrous oxide by 20 percent, and methane by a whopping 150 percent since 1750—mainly from the burning of dirty fossil fuels. The IPCC says it’s “extremely likely” that these emissions are mostly to blame for the rise in global temperatures since the 1950s. Meanwhile, deforestation and forest degradation have contributed significantly to global carbon emissions as well.

Global warming threatens climate systems.

Hotter temperatures—both on land and at sea—alter global weather patterns and change how and where precipitation falls. Those shifting patterns exacerbate dangerous and deadly drought, heat waves, floods, wildfires, and storms, including hurricanes. They also melt ice caps, glaciers, and layers of permafrost, which can lead to rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Warmer temperatures impact whole ecosystems as well, throwing migration patterns and life cycles out of whack. For example, an early spring can induce trees and plants to flower before bees and other pollinators have emerged. While global warming may equate to longer growing seasons and higher food production in some regions, areas already coping with water scarcity are expected to become drier, creating the potential for drought, failed crops, or wildfires.

Climate change endangers human health.

As climate change fuels temperature increases and extreme weather events, it jeopardizes our air, water, and food spreads disease and imperils our homes and safety. We are confronting a growing public health crisis.

    contributes directly to cardiovascular deaths and respiratory disease. In the Indian city of Ahmedabad, for example, more than 1,300 excess deaths were recorded during a heat wave in May 2010. High temperatures also reduce air quality by creating more smog, pollen, and other air-borne allergens—all of which can trigger asthma, which afflicts 235 million people around the world. Extreme heat can also exacerbate drought, leading to malnutrition and famine.
  • Changing weather patterns can impact sources of fresh water and food. While drought creates water scarcity, floods can contaminate drinking water supplies, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases and illnesses spread by disease-carrying insects, such as mosquitoes. Unpredictable weather patterns and water supplies can also wreak havoc on agriculture and food supplies, particularly in regions of the world that are less climate-resilient and where staple food crops are critical for survival.
  • Extreme weather and rising seas can destroy homes, public infrastructure, and entire ways of life—forcing people to move or migrate, displacing whole populations, and increasing the threat of civil unrest. Indeed, the World Economic Forum ranks extreme weather, natural disasters, and our collective failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change as among the greatest threats facing humanity in the coming decade. We’re already experiencing some of those dangers. In the United States, six recent natural disasters equated to tens of thousands of hospitalizations and ER and doctor visits, as well as more than 1,600 premature deaths. In 2017 alone, 16 extreme weather–related disasters cost the country a record-breaking $306 billion in damages.

The countries hardest hit by the impact of climate change will be low-lying nations uniquely vulnerable to sea level rise and developing countries that lack the resources to adapt to temperature and precipitation changes. But wealthy nations such as the United States are increasingly vulnerable as well. Indeed, many millions of Americans—particularly children, the elderly, and the impoverished—are already suffering climate change’s wrath. Many frontline communities are majority people of color. Around the world, those most impacted by climate change are those who contribute least to emissions.

Flooding overtakes a farm in Bangladesh.

Global warming can be mitigated only with global action.

The IPCC notes that climate change will be limited only by “substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” While one can debate the merits of using a single global temperature threshold to represent dangerous climate change, the general scientific view today—represented in the IPCC’s Special Report: Global Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius—is that any rise in global temperatures of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius would be an unacceptably high risk, potentially resulting in major extinctions, more severe droughts and hurricanes, a watery Arctic, and an increased toll on human health and well-being. Furthermore, as the IPCC has noted, while it remains uncertain precisely how much global warming will “trigger abrupt and irreversible changes” in the earth’s systems, the risk of crossing the threshold only increases as temperatures rise.

To avoid major changes to life as we know it, global action must be taken. At the Paris climate conference, all countries committed to a target of keeping the temperature change to well below 2 degrees and to make efforts to prevent a change greater than 1.5 degrees. Unfortunately, the emissions gap—the emissions level with existing commitments compared to a safer trajectory—is still dangerously large as of 2020. Every tenth of a degree matters, and we cannot prevent this unless we act immediately to cut emissions deeply.

The McFadden Ridge Wind Energy Project in Carbon County, Wyoming

What Are the Paris Agreement's Costs?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the Paris Agreement, including the idea that it will hurt the U.S. economy. That was among a number of unfounded claimsformer president Trump repeated, arguing that the accord would cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion by 2040 and $2.7 million jobs by 2025, making us less competitive against China and India. But as fact checkers noted, these statistics originated from a debunked March 2017 study that exaggerated the future costs of emissions reductions, underestimated advances in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, and outright ignored the huge health and economic costs of climate change itself. Climate change is already costing public health. Research from NRDC scientists shows how inaction on climate change is responsible for many billions in health costs each year in just the United States—as communities around the world experience greater displacement, illness, famine, water shortages, civil strife, and death.

Research makes clear that the cost of climate inaction far outweighs the cost of reducing carbon pollution. One 2018 study suggests that if the United States failed to meet its Paris climate goals, it could cost the economy as much as $6 trillion in the coming decades. A worldwide failure to meet the NDCs currently laid out in the agreement could reduce global GDP more than 25 percent by century’s end. Meanwhile, another study estimates that meeting—or even exceeding—the Paris goals via infrastructure investments in both clean energy and energy efficiency could have major global rewards—to the tune of some $19 trillion.

In terms of employment, the clean energy sector employed more than 3 million Americans before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—about 14 times the number of coal, gas, oil, and other fossil fuel industry workers—and has the potential to employ many more with further investments in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electric grid modernization to replace the aging coal-powered infrastructure. Meanwhile, coal jobs aren’t so much being transferred “out of America” as they are falling victim to market forces as renewable and natural gas prices decline. But supporting policies that promote an equitable transition—with community-led decision-making, a focus on equity, and retraining support—is an important means to helping communities leave the dirty energy economy behind them.

Finally, rather than giving China and India a pass to pollute, as Trump claimed, the pact represents the first time those two major developing economies have agreed to concrete and time-bound climate commitments. Both countries, which are already poised to lead the world in renewable energy, have made significant progress to meet their Paris goals.

M. Frustino/Associated Press

International Agreements on Climate Change

The Paris Agreement is the culmination of decades of international efforts to combat climate change. Here is a brief history.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush joined 107 other heads of state at the Rio Earth Summit in Brazil to adopt a series of environmental agreements, including the UNFCCC framework that remains in effect today. The international treaty aimed to prevent dangerous human interference with earth’s climate systems over the long term. The pact set no limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contained no enforcement mechanisms, but instead established a framework for international negotiations of future agreements, or protocols, to set binding emissions targets. Participating countries meet annually at a Conference of the Parties (COP) to assess their progress and continue talks on how to best tackle climate change.

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol, a landmark environmental treaty that was adopted in 1997 at the COP 3 in Japan, represents the first time nations agreed to legally mandated, country-specific emissions reduction targets. The protocol, which didn’t go into effect until 2005, set binding emissions reduction targets for developed countries only, on the premise that they were responsible for most of the earth’s high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States initially signed the agreement but never ratified it President George W. Bush argued that the deal would hurt the U.S. economy since developing nations such as China and India were not included. Without the participation of those three countries, the treaty’s effectiveness proved limited, with its targets covering only a small fraction of total global emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol’s initial commitment period extended through 2012. That year, at the COP 18 in Doha, Qatar, delegates agreed to extend the accord until 2020 (without some developed nations, which had dropped out). They also reaffirmed their 2011 pledge from the COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, to create a new, comprehensive climate treaty by 2015 that would require all big emitters not included in the Kyoto Protocol—such as China, India, and the United States—to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The new treaty—what would become the Paris Agreement—was to fully replace the Kyoto Protocol by 2020. However, the Paris accord went into effect earlier than expected, in November 2016.

Kyoto Protocol versus the Paris Agreement

While the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement both set out to address climate change, there are some key differences between them.

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which established top-down legally binding emissions reduction targets (as well as penalties for noncompliance) for developed nations only, the Paris Agreement requires that all countries—rich, poor, developed, and developing—do their part and slash greenhouse gas emissions. To that end, greater flexibility and national ownership is built into the Paris Agreement: No language is included about the commitments countries should make nations can set their own emissions targets (NDCs) consistent with their level of development and technological advancement.

While the Paris Agreement doesn’t have harsh penalties for countries not meeting their targets, it does have a robust system of monitoring, reporting, and reassessing individual and collective country targets over time in order to move the world closer to the broader objectives of the deal. And the agreement sets forth a requirement for countries to announce their next round of targets every five years—unlike the Kyoto Protocol, which aimed for that objective but didn’t include a specific requirement to achieve it.

The aftermath of a wildfire near Santiam Pass in Oregon

Beyond Paris

While the Paris Agreement ultimately aims to cap global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century, many studies evaluating the national pledges countries made in Paris show that the cumulative effect of those emissions reductions won’t be large enough to keep temperatures under that limit. Indeed, the targets that countries laid out are expected to limit future temperature rise to approximately 2.9 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, despite temporary emissions drops related to changes in production and travel associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, current evaluations of how countries are performing in the context of their Paris climate goals indicate some nations are already falling short of their commitments.

However, it’s important to remember the Paris Agreement isn’t static. Instead, it’s designed to boost countries’ national efforts over time—meaning that current commitments represent the floor, not the ceiling, of climate change ambition. The heavy lifting—reining in emissions even further by 2030 and 2050—still needs to be done, and the accord provides the tools and pressure to make that happen.

As the Paris Agreement matures, nations including the United States must firmly commit to phasing out fossil fuel investment (locally and abroad) and investing in nature-based solutions. Often, the communities who contribute least to global emissions are the ones already showing wealthier nations the way, committing to rapid emissions reductions, renewable energy expansion, protecting their forests, and putting economies on low-carbon pathways. Nations must uplift these communities as well as those who are faced with the brunt of climate impacts. This includes formally protecting Indigenous knowledge and rights, which are critical to fighting the climate crisis. Indigenous peoples—comprising 5 percent of the global population—protect 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity. Even without stronger recognition within the Paris Agreement, Indigenous and frontline communities are building a global movement and successfully fighting back against extractive, climate-damaging industries, including fossil-fuel pipelines, logging, dams, and mining.

Reflecting the collective belief of nearly every nation on earth that climate change is humanity’s race to win, the Paris Agreement exposes America’s climate skeptics as global outliers. In fact, the mobilization of support for climate action across the country and around the world provides hope that the Paris Agreement marked a turning point in the global race against climate change. We can all contribute to the cause by seeking opportunities to slash global warming contributions—at the individual, local, and national levels—but we understand better than ever that individual action is not enough. There is a lot of damage from the Trump administration that President Biden will need to undo—and quickly. But the effort will be well worth the reward of a safer, cleaner world for future generations.

The next Conference of the Parties is currently scheduled for November 2021 in Glasgow. The aims of COP 26 will be to assess the progress made under the Paris Agreement and to encourage countries to enhance their original NDCs into greater alignment with current climate science. While COP 26 was postponed due to COVID-19, the delay gives countries time to develop more ambitious targets and accelerate low-carbon actions to ensure a green and resilient recovery from COVID-19.

This story was originally published on December 12, 2018 and has been updated with new information and links.


Watch the video: History Brief: The Treaty of Paris 1783