What is COP 21 and Why is it Critical to Slowing Climate Change?
October 1, 2015.
Wondering who will save the planet from climate change?
So are we.
Which leads us to the most important global climate meeting to date: COP21, taking place in Paris in December 2015.
Negotiators from 130+ countries will be attending a meeting in Paris to hammer out, hopefully, the most significant binding climate agreement to date.
And with so many countries involved - it is critical to have a system for reaching a deal.
It started at the Earth Summit in Brazil (1992), when countries joined an international treaty -- the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) -- to figure out what they could do to slow climate change.
Out of this came the Conference of the Parties (COP), which has continued to organize international meetings, most notably in Kyoto in 1997-- which produced the Kyoto Protocol. Next were meetings in Copenhagen (2009) and Durban (2011). All these gatherings inched the climate change/action discussion forward.
Then at COP 20 in Lima, Peru (2014) -- which attracted more than 15,000 official delegates -- a document was drafted that "lays the groundwork for a new global climate deal."
The goal for COP 21 is to produce a legally binding, universal agreement which would spell out what participants are ready to do, both alone and together, to keep the earth's average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
"Legally binding" in this case means creating a legal structure that encourages countries to work together, but at the same time, allows them to use their own sovereign legal systems to carry out their actions. The agreement needs to affirm that we're all on the same page, and following the terms that the world has decided is the way forward.
This will be a big meeting….
The Paris Conference is expected to attract more than 40,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates, from government, intergovernmental organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.
With the reality of climate change up on us, it’s hard to overstate the importance of COP21.
As a summer of preparatory negotiations turns into an autumn of brinkmanship, the main issues are being successfully divided into three parts:
- the first would be the spelling out options, such as describing commitments that individual countries are willing to make,
- second would be listing the options that nations would try to act on before the full treaty goes into force in 2020,
- finally, there are the contentious issues where “further clarity” is needed; such as when should the world bring carbon dioxide emissions to zero? Who goes first? Who pays? How much?
It's understood that any pact needs to be based in science, and that it must put forth a concrete plan that would allow for a rapid transition for the world's energy economy. There also needs to be a structure to monitor progress and compliance, and mechanisms to engage market economics for land and ecosystem conservation.
There is room for optimism.
Last fall, the presidents of the US and China, which combined make up more roughly half all global greenhouse gas emissions, made a pledge to take concrete actions to address climate change. It’s a non-binding agreement, but it was critical to helping motivate additional international agreement.
More recently, Pope Francis—with his encyclical, and in meetings and speeches since--has made it clear that climate change is real, human caused, and we have an urgent, moral responsibility to deal with it.
Here at ClimateStore, we’re pulling for the best outcome in Paris. A coordinated global agreement – centered around collective care of the climate system – is a unifying idea for all peoples, religions, cultures and systems of government. With a global agreement, we can take collective pride in humanity’s higher ability to work together for a common good – the amazing earth which we all live on and which none of us created.
And if we don’t reach a binding agreement, we remain hopeful that negotiators will find enough significant common ground – such that any final differences can be solved rapidly – because we know the clock is ticking.
In the meantime, we’re certain of the power of personal example.
That works all the time.