The 6 FAQ to explain what to this edition of COP21 is all about.
What is the United Nation Conference on Climate Change?
The COP21 – 21st Conference of the Parties – is a summit that will be held in France from 30 November 2015 to 11 December 2015. Ministers and high ranking government officials from more than 190 countries will gather in the city of Le Bourget in order to discuss how to reduce global greenhouse gas emission and how to keep global warming below 2° C. The summit will be preceded by COY11, the 11th Conference of Youth, which will take place from the 26th to the 28th of November. The Conference of Youth is an event held before every Conference of the Parties; this year it is expected to involve thousands of people, with workshops and activities related to climate changes and sustainable living.
What is the expected outcome of this summit?
The expected outcome of this summit is a binding agreement on climate change, that will be hopefully be signed by all countries and that will last at least a decade. One of the most important goal of the agreement will be to cut greenhouse gas emissions: some countries have already committed to this goal, but even if all countries agree to cut emissions, it will not likely be enough to keep global warming below 2°C, let alone stop it. For this reasons, it was suggested to try and engage “non-state” entities such as cities, local government and private businesses, urging them to do more and cut emissions.
What about the Kyoto Protocol, then?
The Kyoto protocol required each ratifying country to cut its emissions of 5% by 2012, compared to the levels in 1990. It was adopted in 1997, but it could not enter into force until enough countries to represent at least 55% of global emissions had ratified it. Since the USA – then the world’s bigger emitter of greenhouse gas – refused to ratify the treaty and since developing countries were kept out of the protocol and allowed to increase emissions in order to help their economies, it could not come enter into force until 2005, when Russia passed the treaty.
The protocol was originally expected to last until 2012, but the Doha conference held in Qatar in 2012 extended it until 2020. So, in five years there will be absolutely no international agreement on climate change; besides, the world’s bigger emitter of greenhouse gas is now China, which was not included in the Kyoto Protocol.
Why is a global agreement on climate change necessary?
Most scientists agree that if we don’t take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will soon become irreversible and it will have catastrophic consequence. If we don’t do anything, temperature will rise about 5°C: while this might seem like a small rise, it is the same difference as the one between today’s world and the last ice age. With a 5°C rise, the ice at the poles will melt and entire cities will be submerged by water. Entire species of animals and plants will die, and the entire human race will be in danger.
From a political point of view, a new treaty will be needed when the Kyoto Protocol will be no longer in effect. In order for the new agreement to be effective, it needs to be ratified by both China and the USA, and it is also important to impose sanctions on countries that will fail to meet the treaty’s requirements; this was not done with the Kyoto Protocol, and this is one of the reasons why it failed to meet its objectives.
Why wasn’t an agreement signed at the Copenhagen UN Climate Change summit in 2009?
While the Copenhagen summit didn’t result in a formal agreement, most countries agreed to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, although not enough to stop global warming. One of the issues that wasn’t resolved was finance: poorer countries need help to invest in clean technologies that will allow them to reduce their emissions, and they want richer countries to give them this help. During the Copenhagen summit, rich countries agreed to a plan which guaranteed financial assistance to poorer countries until 2020, but it was not deemed enough.
Moreover, there are disagreements about the source of the funds that will be used to provide assistance: most countries don’t want, or can’t afford to provide funding based only on their public money. They want international development banks and private donors to provide most of the funding. Finding an agreement on financial matters will likely be one of the main issues that will arise in the summit.
What will be the key points of the agreement?
In order to be effective, the agreement will have to be universal: this means that it will be signed and ratified to all countries. It must also be ambitious in order to send all countries a clear message: it is now time to transition to a low carbon economy, favoring green fuels and renewable energies. It must also be balanced between mitigation and adaptation, giving all countries enough resources to meet the requirements, and flexible in order to be suitable for both big and small nations, developed and developing countries. Finally, it must be sustainable and dynamic, with long-term goals and periodic reviews in order to strengthen its action.
What can we do to team up and show the world we care?
People, companies, movements are more and more gathering up to raise awareness on the importance of respecting our planet through a range of different actions. U-earth biotechnologies has launched a campaign for Air Quality standards to be raised to the highest possible levels, and provided Pure Air Zones in public spaces for everyones minimal exposure to air pollution. The campaign’s video #iwantpureair is below for you to see and share. Thank you.