What You Should Know About the Paris Climate Change Conference

By Hope Imaka – EMTV Online

Yesterday on the 30th of November 2015, more than 100 head of government and 40,000 other attendees gathered together for the launching of the two-week United Nations Conference on climate change.

What do you know about the COP21 in Paris’

What are the pressing issues and negotiations you are well versed with?

Below are things you need to know about the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) being held in Paris.


Key areas of concern which are being negotiated

  • Finances

Whilst developed nations are placed at a comfortable position to operate their part upon the proposed annual climate change budget agreement of $100 billion, many developing countries say they won’t be able to follow through on the most aggressive parts of their own climate plans without receiving their share of the money.

  • Addressing the adaptation process of climate change

Many of the most vulnerable developing countries, especially the  low-lying island nations want to know that the international community will support efforts to protect their land from the rising sea-levels.

“The discussion tends to be hijacked by mitigation concerns,” said Shyla Raghav, climate policy director at Conservation International.

“Adaption is increasingly becoming a concern and a necessity, not only in the future but today.”


Why are people so optimistic this time around?

This isn’t the first time people are so hyped up about the event.

Prior to the 2015 COP21 in Paris, leaders had employed a top-down approach in the formulation of their climate agreements.

In this agreements countries would agree to broad guideline to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

This year’s COP21 however, leaders of the summit will engage in a bottom-up approach, in which governments from around the world have already in place their own plans called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), laying out how they intend on cutting greenhouse gas emissions based on what they believe is politically feasible for their own country.


What is the U.S. Role in Paris’

US President, Barack Obama, is looking to position USA as the leader for the climate change movement after years of inactivity.

Domestically, Obama has instituted a slew of policies to push a decline in greenhouse gas emissions. Chief among them is the Clean Power Plan, which calls for a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from power plants from 2005 levels by 2030.

On the international front, Obama has signed up the U.S. for a number of bilateral climate agreements, including joint commitments with China.

Obama hopes that these moves will give the rest of the world confidence that the U.S. is taking climate seriously.

Most other countries, especially big developing nations like China, would be reluctant to make deep cuts without the U.S., the world’s second largest emitter, at the table.

“There’s a good understanding internationally of the path that the U.S. is now taking, that the actions are credible,” said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at World Resources Institute.

As for China, one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, appears to have turned over a new leaf. The country has launched a national cap-and-trade program, gotten serious about tracking and reporting carbon emissions and, most importantly, committed to peaking carbon emissions by 2030.


Scientist’s Take, on Global Warming

Paris comes at a time when scientists are telling us that the evidence for damaging climate change is greater than ever. Average temperature reached a record high in 2014, and the U.N. confirmed Wednesday that 2015 would likely be the hottest on record.

Nearly 92% of biophysical scientists surveyed believe that human activity has contributed to global warming.

Supporters of policies to address man-made climate change are quick to cite research showing 97% of climate scientists believe that humans are contributing to global warming. Now, new research suggests that consensus extends to scientists in other fields.

The consensus among scientists on climate change stands in sharp contrast to the views of the general public in the United States. Less than two-thirds of Americans believe change is happening. And only 40% believe it’s caused by humans, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.

The study also suggests that role culture and political values play in determining one’s views on climate change. Both of those factors helped predict those who didn’t believe in man-made climate change despite being knowledgeable on the science, according to the study.


So, what concrete changes will be prompted by a climate agreement?

Despite the report by Corporate Accountability International, exposing the track record of the major corporate sponsors of COP21, and the supposedly biased intentions behind the sponsorship, climate agreements must be made in views of all countries, especially the most vulnerable of nations.

Climate negotiations can sound like a lot of abstract numbers with little reality behind them. But a strong agreement will lead to a slew of positive developments when negotiators return to their countries.

  • China has committed to a cap-and-trade program and said it will peak its emissions by 2030.
  • India will increase its forest cover.
  • The U.S. will phase out coal power plants. 

A climate deal will provide the framework to lock some of those commitments into place and push new efforts.

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, addressed the COP21 summit, bringing forward the wishes of the Pacific Island Nations. 

“The time for talk is passing the world by, we must act now to save lives and protect communities. We must set targets and plans for action to reduce emissions. It will not be good enough if countries walk away from Paris without a firm agreement being reached – particularly when we know that there is momentum and goodwill to reach that binding agreement. The countries of the Pacific Islands Forum are seeking a legally binding agreement – that sets a temperature ceiling of well below 1.5°C,” Mr O’Neill said. 

Andrew Steer, President and CEO of the World Resources Institute said that if done right, this will set in train a set of policies and actions that would take us across a number of these positive tipping points in a way we design our cities, in the way we consume, in the way we deliver electricity, in the way we work and how we go to work.


Related Article: New Disclosure Exposes Dirt on COP21’s Corporate Sponsors

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