What is the Paris climate accord? Here's what to know about the Obama-era agreement Trump rejected

Francois Guillot/Getty Images

Reports surfaced on Wednesday that President Donald Trump is expected to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, a wide-ranging climate change agreement that was first agreed to by over 190 countries in 2015.

If the U.S. withdraws from the agreement, which took effect in Nov. 2016, it will join Nicaragua and Syria as being the only member nations of the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change to not participateclass="comment-selection" data-editor-comment-id="6879">, the Hill noted.

Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other world leaders celebrate the climate change agreement's passage in Dec. 2015.
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other world leaders celebrate the climate change agreement's passage in Dec. 2015. Francois Guillot/Getty Images

In addition to potentially dissuading other major carbon-emitting countries, such as China and India, from keeping their own commitments to the agreement, the U.S.'s withdrawal from the accord would dissolve its binding commitment to reduce emissions, report its climate change efforts and aid developing nations.

Here are some of the key things to know about the sweeping agreement that we may soon leave behind:

Reducing emissions

The ultimate aim of the Paris climate agreement is "to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change" by keeping global temperatures from rising in this century by no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the United Nations website explains. 

To achieve this ambitious goal, the agreement requires countries to actively work to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen their efforts in the years ahead. Countries are required to submit a Nationally Determined Contribution every five years, with each successive NDC making further progress than the past one, according to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The U.S.'s first NDC submission sets forth a plan to reduce carbon emissions by 26% to 28% below the country's 2005 levels by 2025 — an ambitious goal that likely won't be realized if Trump decides to withdraw from the agreement.

Protesters take part in the People's Climate March in Washington D.C. in April 2017.
Protesters take part in the People's Climate March in Washington D.C. in April 2017. Astrid Riecken/Getty Images

Accountability

Under the Paris agreement, each country's efforts to mitigate their emissions won't just be their own affairs to track, as the agreement strengthened transparency frameworks to clearly show how countries are taking action and providing support. 

By entering into the agreement, the participating countries are held accountable for their climate change actions, requiring them to continually report their greenhouse gas inventories and the progress they're making in combating and adapting to climate change. Each country's reports will undergo a technical expert review to certify accuracy.

To ensure member countries are sticking to their commitments, the agreement also establishes a 12-person committee of experts, who will "facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of the agreement."

The agreement also stipulates there will be meetings every five years between member countries, beginning in 2023, which will assess how the member countries are progressing in the fight against climate change and what more needs to be done.

All of this means that if Trump decides to stay in the Paris agreement after all, he won't be able to ignore the U.S.'s commitments or roll back Obama-era climate change policies without being held accountable.

Helping other countries

Considering the U.S. is one of the most developed nations in the world, its retreat from the Paris agreement would have a global effect. 

The accord provides for the wealth disparity between member nations by ensuring the participating developed nations provide support for developing countries — who are most likely to bear the brunt of climate change's dire effects. A financial mechanism was established that encourages this transfer of wealth, giving less-wealthy nations the funding to mitigate against and adapt to climate change. 

Coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels in Maafushi, Maldives in Oct. 2016.
Coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels in Maafushi, Maldives in Oct. 2016. Aishath Adam/Getty Images

The agreement sets forth a goal of $100 billion per year in financial support by 2020 through 2025, with a hope of then raising the annual amount even higher. Developed countries are also encouraged to report every two years on the public funds they're putting toward this foreign aid.

In addition to sharing their financial resources, the Paris agreement obliges the participating developed countries to share their technological resources as well. According to the U.N., developed countries are urged to "promote, facilitate and finance the transfer of, or access to, climate technologies to other parties, particularly to developing countries," ensuring that all countries have access to essential technological tools in the climate change fight.