The Paris Agreement (French: Accord de Paris) is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance, signed in 2016. The agreement's language was negotiated by representatives of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. As of November 2019, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, and 187 have become party to it.
Parties covered by EU ratification
|Drafted||30 November – 12 December 2015 in Le Bourget, France|
|Signed||22 April 2016|
|Location||New York City, United States|
|Sealed||12 December 2015|
|Effective||4 November 2016|
|Condition||Ratification and accession by 55 UNFCCC parties, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions|
|Depositary||Secretary-General of the United Nations|
|Languages||Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish and Afrikaans|
The Paris Agreement's long-term temperature goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C, recognizing that this would substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change. This should be done by peaking emissions as soon as possible, in order to "achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases" in the second half of the 21st century. It also aims to increase the ability of parties to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change, and make "finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development."
Under the Paris Agreement, each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to mitigate global warming. No mechanism forces a country to set a specific emissions target by a specific date, but each target should go beyond previously set targets. In June 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest effective date of withdrawal for the U.S. is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump's 2016 term. In practice, changes in United States policy that are contrary to the Paris Agreement have already been put in place.
(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
(b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production;
(c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.
This strategy involved energy and climate policy including the so-called 20/20/20 targets, namely the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 20%, the increase of renewable energy's market share to 20%, and a 20% increase in energy efficiency.
Countries furthermore aim to reach "global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible". The agreement has been described as an incentive for and driver of fossil fuel divestment.
Nationally determined contributions
Contributions each individual country should make to achieve the worldwide goal are determined by all countries individually and are called nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Article 3 requires them to be "ambitious", "represent a progression over time" and set "with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement". The contributions should be reported every five years and are to be registered by the UNFCCC Secretariat. Each further ambition should be more ambitious than the previous one, known as the principle of 'progression'. Countries can cooperate and pool their nationally determined contributions. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions pledged during the 2015 Climate Change Conference serve—unless provided otherwise—as the initial Nationally determined contribution.
The level of NDCs set by each country will set that country's targets. However the 'contributions' themselves are not binding as a matter of international law, as they lack the specificity, normative character, or obligatory language necessary to create binding norms. Furthermore, there will be no mechanism to force a country to set a target in their NDC by a specific date and no enforcement if a set target in an NDC is not met. There will be only a "name and shame" system or as János Pásztor, the U.N. assistant secretary-general on climate change, told CBS News (US), a "name and encourage" plan. As the agreement provides no consequences if countries do not meet their commitments, consensus of this kind is fragile. A trickle of nations exiting the agreement could trigger the withdrawal of more governments, bringing about a total collapse of the agreement.
The NDC Partnership was launched at COP22 in Marrakesh to enhance cooperation so that countries have access to the technical knowledge and financial support they need to achieve large-scale climate and sustainable development targets. The NDC Partnership is guided by a Steering Committee composed of developed and developing nations and international institutions, and facilitated by a Support Unit hosted by World Resources Institute and based in Washington, DC and Bonn, Germany. The NDC Partnership is co-chaired by the governments of Costa Rica and the Netherlands and includes 93 member countries,21 institutional partners and ten associate members.
Effects on global temperature
The negotiators of the agreement, however, stated that the NDCs and the target of no more than 2 °C increase were insufficient; instead, a target of 1.5 °C maximum increase is required, noting "with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 °C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030", and recognizing furthermore "that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 °C by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 °C."
Though not the sustained temperatures over the long term that the Agreement addresses, in the first half of 2016 average temperatures were about 1.3 °C (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average in 1880, when global record-keeping began.
When the agreement achieved enough signatures to cross the threshold on 5 October 2016, US President Barack Obama claimed that "Even if we meet every target ... we will only get to part of where we need to go." He also said that "this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations."
The global stocktake will kick off with a "facilitative dialogue" in 2018. At this convening, parties will evaluate how their NDCs stack up to the nearer-term goal of peaking global emissions and the long-term goal of achieving net zero emissions by the second half of this century.
The implementation of the agreement by all member countries together will be evaluated every 5 years, with the first evaluation in 2023. The outcome is to be used as input for new nationally determined contributions of member states. The stocktake will not be of contributions/achievements of individual countries but a collective analysis of what has been achieved and what more needs to be done.
The stocktake works as part of the Paris Agreement's effort to create a "ratcheting up" of ambition in emissions cuts. Because analysts agreed in 2014 that the NDCs would not limit rising temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, the global stocktake reconvenes parties to assess how their new NDCs must evolve so that they continually reflect a country's "highest possible ambition".
While ratcheting up the ambition of NDCs is a major aim of the global stocktake, it assesses efforts beyond mitigation. The 5-year reviews will also evaluate adaptation, climate finance provisions, and technology development and transfer.
The Paris Agreement has a 'bottom up' structure in contrast to most international environmental law treaties, which are 'top down', characterised by standards and targets set internationally, for states to implement. Unlike its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, which sets commitment targets that have legal force, the Paris Agreement, with its emphasis on consensus-building, allows for voluntary and nationally determined targets. The specific climate goals are thus politically encouraged, rather than legally bound. Only the processes governing the reporting and review of these goals are mandated under international law. This structure is especially notable for the United States—because there are no legal mitigation or finance targets, the agreement is considered an "executive agreement rather than a treaty". Because the UNFCCC treaty of 1992 received the consent of the Senate, this new agreement does not require further legislation from Congress for it to take effect.
Another key difference between the Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol is their scopes. While the Kyoto Protocol differentiated between Annex-1 and non-Annex-1 countries, this bifurcation is blurred in the Paris Agreement, as all parties will be required to submit emissions reductions plans. While the Paris Agreement still emphasizes the principle of "Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities"—the acknowledgement that different nations have different capacities and duties to climate action—it does not provide a specific division between developed and developing nations. It therefore appears that negotiators will have to continue to deal with this issue in future negotiation rounds, even though the discussion on differentiation may take on a new dynamic.
Mitigation provisions and carbon markets
Article 6 has been flagged as containing some of the key provisions of the Paris Agreement. Broadly, it outlines the cooperative approaches that parties can take in achieving their nationally determined carbon emissions reductions. In doing so, it helps establish the Paris Agreement as a framework for a global carbon market.
Linkage of trading systems and international transfer of mitigation outcomes (ITMOs)
Paragraphs 6.2 and 6.3 establish a framework to govern the international transfer of mitigation outcomes (ITMOs). The Agreement recognizes the rights of Parties to use emissions reductions outside of their own jurisdiction toward their NDC, in a system of carbon accounting and trading.
This provision requires the "linkage" of various carbon emissions trading systems—because measured emissions reductions must avoid "double counting", transferred mitigation outcomes must be recorded as a gain of emission units for one party and a reduction of emission units for the other. Because the NDCs, and domestic carbon trading schemes, are heterogeneous, the ITMOs will provide a format for global linkage under the auspices of the UNFCCC. The provision thus also creates a pressure for countries to adopt emissions management systems—if a country wants to use more cost-effective cooperative approaches to achieve their NDCs, they will need to monitor carbon units for their economies.
Sustainable Development Mechanism
Paragraphs 6.4-6.7 establish a mechanism "to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gases and support sustainable development". Though there is no specific name for the mechanism as yet, many Parties and observers have informally coalesced around the name "Sustainable Development Mechanism" or "SDM". The SDM is considered to be the successor to the Clean Development Mechanism, a flexible mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol, by which parties could collaboratively pursue emissions reductions for their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. The Sustainable Development Mechanism lays the framework for the future of the Clean Development Mechanism post-Kyoto (in 2020).
In its basic aim, the SDM will largely resemble the Clean Development Mechanism, with the dual mission to 1. contribute to global GHG emissions reductions and 2. support sustainable development. Though the structure and processes governing the SDM are not yet determined, certain similarities and differences from the Clean Development Mechanism can already be seen. Notably, the SDM, unlike the Clean Development Mechanism, will be available to all parties as opposed to only Annex-1 parties, making it much wider in scope.
Since the Kyoto Protocol went into force, the Clean Development Mechanism has been criticized for failing to produce either meaningful emissions reductions or sustainable development benefits in most instances. It has also suffered from the low price of Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), creating less demand for projects. These criticisms have motivated the recommendations of various stakeholders, who have provided through working groups and reports, new elements they hope to see in SDM that will bolster its success. The specifics of the governance structure, project proposal modalities, and overall design were expected to come during the 2016 Conference of the Parties in Marrakesh.
Adaptation issues garnered more focus in the formation of the Paris Agreement. Collective, long-term adaptation goals are included in the Agreement, and countries must report on their adaptation actions, making adaptation a parallel component of the agreement with mitigation. The adaptation goals focus on enhancing adaptive capacity, increasing resilience, and limiting vulnerability.
At the Paris Conference in 2015 where the Agreement was negotiated, the developed countries reaffirmed the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and agreed to continue mobilizing finance at the level of $100 billion a year until 2025. The commitment refers to the pre-existing plan to provide US$100 billion a year in aid to developing countries for actions on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Though both mitigation and adaptation require increased climate financing, adaptation has typically received lower levels of support and has mobilised less action from the private sector. A 2014 report by the OECD found that just 16 percent of global finance was directed toward climate adaptation in 2014. The Paris Agreement called for a balance of climate finance between adaptation and mitigation, and specifically underscoring the need to increase adaptation support for parties most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States. The agreement also reminds parties of the importance of public grants, because adaptation measures receive less investment from the public sector. John Kerry, as Secretary of State, announced that the U.S. would double its grant-based adaptation finance by 2020.
Some specific outcomes of the elevated attention to adaptation financing in Paris include the G7 countries' announcement to provide US$420 million for Climate Risk Insurance, and the launching of a Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative. In early March 2016, the Obama administration gave a $500 million grant to the "Green Climate Fund" as "the first chunk of a $3 billion commitment made at the Paris climate talks." So far, the Green Climate Fund has now received over $10 billion in pledges. Notably, the pledges come from developed nations like France, the US, and Japan, but also from developing countries such as Mexico, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Loss and damage
A new issue that emerged as a focal point in the Paris negotiations rose from the fact that many of the worst effects of climate change will be too severe or come too quickly to be avoided by adaptation measures. The Paris Agreement specifically acknowledges the need to address loss and damage of this kind, and aims to find appropriate responses. It specifies that loss and damage can take various forms—both as immediate impacts from extreme weather events, and slow onset impacts, such as the loss of land to sea-level rise for low-lying islands.
The push to address loss and damage as a distinct issue in the Paris Agreement came from the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries, whose economies and livelihoods are most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. Developed countries, however, worried that classifying the issue as one separate and beyond adaptation measures would create yet another climate finance provision, or might imply legal liability for catastrophic climate events.
In the end, all parties acknowledged the need for "averting, minimizing, and addressing loss and damage" but notably, any mention of compensation or liability is excluded. The agreement also adopts the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, an institution that will attempt to address questions about how to classify, address, and share responsibility for loss.
Enhanced transparency framework
While each Party's NDC is not legally binding, the Parties are legally bound to have their progress tracked by technical expert review to assess achievement toward the NDC, and to determine ways to strengthen ambition. Article 13 of the Paris Agreement articulates an "enhanced transparency framework for action and support" that establishes harmonized monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) requirements. Thus, both developed and developing nations must report every two years on their mitigation efforts, and all parties will be subject to both technical and peer review.
While the enhanced transparency framework is universal, along with the global stocktaking to occur every 5 years, the framework is meant to provide "built-in flexibility" to distinguish between developed and developing countries' capacities. In conjunction with this, the Paris Agreement has provisions for an enhanced framework for capacity building. The agreement recognizes the varying circumstances of some countries, and specifically notes that the technical expert review for each country consider that country's specific capacity for reporting. The agreement also develops a Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency to assist developing countries in building the necessary institutions and processes for complying with the transparency framework.
There are several ways that flexibility mechanisms can be incorporated into the enhanced transparency framework. The scope, level of detail, or frequency of reporting may all be adjusted and tiered based on a country's capacity. The requirement for in-country technical reviews could be lifted for some less developed or small island developing countries. Ways to assess capacity include financial and human resources in a country necessary for NDC review.
The Paris Agreement was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 (Earth Day) at a ceremony in New York. After several European Union states ratified the agreement in October 2016, there were enough countries that had ratified the agreement that produce enough of the world's greenhouse gases for the agreement to enter into force. The agreement went into effect on 4 November 2016.
Within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, legal instruments may be adopted to reach the goals of the convention. For the period from 2008 to 2012, greenhouse gas reduction measures were agreed in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The scope of the protocol was extended until 2020 with the Doha Amendment to that protocol in 2012.
During the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the Durban Platform (and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) was established with the aim to negotiate a legal instrument governing climate change mitigation measures from 2020. The resulting agreement was to be adopted in 2015.
At the conclusion of COP 21 (the 21st meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which guides the Conference), on 12 December 2015, the final wording of the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus by all of the 195 UNFCCC participating member states and the European Union to reduce emissions as part of the method for reducing greenhouse gas. In the 12-page Agreement, the members promised to reduce their carbon output "as soon as possible" and to do their best to keep global warming "to well below 2 °C" [3.6 °F].
Signature and entry into force
The Paris Agreement was open for signature by states and regional economic integration organizations that are parties to the UNFCCC (the Convention) from 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017 at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The agreement stated that it would enter into force (and thus become fully effective) only if 55 countries that produce at least 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions (according to a list produced in 2015) ratify, accept, approve or accede to the agreement. On 1 April 2016, the United States and China, which together represent almost 40% of global emissions, issued a joint statement confirming that both countries would sign the Paris Climate Agreement. 175 Parties (174 states and the European Union) signed the agreement on the first date it was open for signature. On the same day, more than 20 countries issued a statement of their intent to join as soon as possible with a view to joining in 2016. With ratification by the European Union, the Agreement obtained enough parties to enter into effect as of 4 November 2016.
European Union and its member states
Both the EU and its member states are individually responsible for ratifying the Paris Agreement. A strong preference was reported that the EU and its 28 member states deposit their instruments of ratification at the same time to ensure that neither the EU nor its member states engage themselves to fulfilling obligations that strictly belong to the other, and there were fears that disagreement over each individual member state's share of the EU-wide reduction target, as well as Britain's vote to leave the EU might delay the Paris pact. However, the European Parliament approved ratification of the Paris Agreement on 4 October 2016, and the EU deposited its instruments of ratification on 5 October 2016, along with several individual EU member states.
The process of translating the Paris Agreement into national agendas and implementation has started. One example is the commitment of the least developed countries (LDCs). The LDC Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Initiative for Sustainable Development, known as LDC REEEI, is set to bring sustainable, clean energy to millions of energy-starved people in LDCs, facilitating improved energy access, the creation of jobs and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Per analysis from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a carbon "budget" based upon total carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere (versus the rate of annual emission) to limit global warming to 1.5 °C was estimated to be 2.25 trillion tonnes of overall emitted carbon dioxide from the period since 1870. This number is a notable increase from the number estimated by the original Paris Climate accord estimates (of around 2 trillion tonnes total) total carbon emission limit to meet the 1.5 °C global warming target, a target that would be met in the year 2020 at 2017 rates of emission. Additionally, the annual emission of carbon is estimated in 2017 to be at 40 billion tonnes emitted per year. The revised IPCC budget for this was based upon CMIP5 climate model. Estimate models using different base-years also provide other slightly adjusted estimates of a carbon "budget".
Parties and signatories
As of February 2019, 194 states and the European Union have signed the Agreement. 186 states and the EU, representing more than 87% of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified or acceded to the Agreement, including China, the United States and India, the countries with three of the four largest greenhouse gas emissions of the UNFCCC members total (about 42% together).
Withdrawal from Agreement
Article 28 of the agreement enables parties to withdraw from the agreement after sending a withdrawal notification to the depositary, but notice can be given no earlier than three years after the agreement goes into force for the country. Withdrawal is effective one year after the depositary is notified. Alternatively, the Agreement stipulates that withdrawal from the UNFCCC, under which the Paris Agreement was adopted, would also withdraw the state from the Paris Agreement. The conditions for withdrawal from the UNFCCC are the same as for the Paris Agreement. The agreement does not specify provisions for non-compliance.
On 4 August 2017, the Trump administration delivered an official notice to the United Nations that the U.S. intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as it is legally eligible to do so. The formal notice of withdrawal could not be submitted until the agreement was in force for 3 years for the US, on 4 November 2019. On 4 November the US government deposited the withdrawal notification with the Secretary General of the United Nations, the depositary of the agreement.
A "National Communication" is a type of report submitted by the countries that have ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries listed in Annex I of the Convention (mostly industrialized countries) are obliged to submit regular National Communications. Non-Annex I countries do so less frequently. Some Least Developed Countries have not submitted National Communications in the past 5–15 years, largle due to capacity constraints.
National Communication reports are often several hundred pages long and cover a country's measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions as well as a description of its vulnerabilities and impacts from climate change. National Communications are prepared according to guidelines that have been agreed by the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. The (Intended) Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that form the basis of the Paris Agreement are shorter and less detailed but also follow a standardized structure and are subject to technical review by experts.
Although President Donald Trump has declared that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, this cannot be effectuated until the day after the 2020 presidential election in the United States. Since the United States has not declared an intention to also withdraw from the 1992 UNFCCC, the United States will continue to be obliged to prepare National Communications.
A pair of studies in Nature have said that, as of 2017, none of the major industrialized nations were implementing the policies they had envisioned and have not met their pledged emission reduction targets, and even if they had, the sum of all member pledges (as of 2016) would not keep global temperature rise "well below 2 °C". According to UNEP the emission cut targets in November 2016 will result in temperature rise by 3 °C above pre-industrial levels, far above the 2 °C of the Paris climate agreement.
In addition, an MIT News article written on 22 April 2016 discussed recent MIT studies on the true impact that the Paris Agreement had on global temperature increase. Using their Integrated Global System Modeling (IGSM) to predict temperature increase results in 2100, they used a wide range of scenarios that included no effort towards climate change past 2030, and full extension of the Paris Agreement past 2030. They concluded that the Paris Agreement would cause temperature decrease by about 0.6 to 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to a no-effort-scenario, with only a 0.1 °C change in 2050 for all scenarios. They concluded that, although beneficial, there was strong evidence that the goal provided by the Paris Agreement could not be met in the future; under all scenarios, warming would be at least 3.0 °C by 2100.
A 2018 published study points at a threshold at which temperatures could rise to 4 or 5 degrees compared to the pre-industrial levels, through self-reinforcing feedbacks in the climate system, suggesting this threshold is below the 2-degree temperature target, agreed upon by the Paris climate deal. Study author Katherine Richardson stresses, "We note that the Earth has never in its history had a quasi-stable state that is around 2 °C warmer than the pre-industrial and suggest that there is substantial risk that the system, itself, will 'want' to continue warming because of all of these other processes – even if we stop emissions. This implies not only reducing emissions but much more."
At the same time, another 2018 published study notes that even at a 1.5 °C level of warming, important increases in the occurrence of high river flows would be expected in India, South and Southeast Asia. Yet, the same study points out that under a 2.0 °C of warming various areas in South America, central Africa, western Europe, and the Mississippi area in the United States would see more high flows; thus increasing flood risks.
Lack of binding enforcement mechanism
Although the agreement was lauded by many, including French President François Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, criticism has also surfaced. For example, James Hansen, a former NASA scientist and a climate change expert, voiced anger that most of the agreement consists of "promises" or aims and not firm commitments. He called the Paris talks a fraud with 'no action, just promises' and feels that only an across the board tax on CO
2 emissions, something not part of the Paris Agreement, would force CO
2 emissions down fast enough to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
Institutional asset owners associations and think-tanks have also observed that the stated objectives of the Paris Agreement are implicitly "predicated upon an assumption – that member states of the United Nations, including high polluters such as China, the US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Indonesia and Mexico, which generate more than half the world's greenhouse gas emissions, will somehow drive down their carbon pollution voluntarily and assiduously without any binding enforcement mechanism to measure and control CO
2 emissions at any level from factory to state, and without any specific penalty gradation or fiscal pressure (for example a carbon tax) to discourage bad behaviour." Emissions taxes (such as a carbon tax) can be integrated into the country's NDC however.
According to United Nations Environment Programme UNEP if we rely only on the current climate commitments of the Paris Agreement, temperatures will likely rise to 3.2°C this century. To limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, emissions must be below 25 gigatons (Gt) by 2030. With current Nov 2019 commitments, emissions will be 56 Gt CO2e by 2030, twice the environmental target. To limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the global annual emission reduction needed is 7.6% emissions reduction every year between 2020 and 2030. The top four emitters (China, USA, EU28 and India) contribute to over 55% of the total emissions over the last decade, excluding emissions from land-use change such as deforestation. China’s emissions grew 1.6% in 2018 to reach a high of 13.7 Gt of CO2 equivalent. The US emits 13% of global emissions and emissions rose 2.5% in 2018. The EU emits 8.5% of global emissions has declined 1% per year across the last decade. Emissions declined 1.3% in 2018. India’s 7% of global emissions grew 5.5% in 2018. Emissions per capita is one of the lowest within the G20.
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