Climate Crisis

Climate Crisis

30 November, 2015
Paris COP21 Overview
A quick'n'dirty guide to the vitally important United Nations conference on climate change
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COP21 is on everyone's lips, and with all the news surrounding it, including the recent tragedies that shook hosting city Paris, it can be hard to filter through and get to the core of what the conference is ultimately all about. So here are the Cliff's Notes, Ecozine style. You're welcome.
 
The country to host this year’s conference is France, hence the 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) is also known to some as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. The main event is taking place in Le Bourget, France, from the 30th November until the 11th of December. One of the biggest international conferences to ever take place within the country, it is estimated at around 50,000 attendees - including 25,000 official members of government, UN agencies, intergovernmental organisations, civil society and NGOs.
 
COP came about as a global political response to climate change. The concept was born in 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, where the the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was introduced. But it was not until the 21st March 1994 that UNFCCC came into force; fast forward to now, and it has an international membership of 195 parties (countries). When people refer to COP (the Conference of Parties), they refer to these parties.
 
The first official ‘COP’ took place in 1995, in Berlin. Significant conventions since include the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at COP3, the Montreal Action Plan at COP11, and the creation of the Green Climate Fund at COP17 in Durban. This year, for the first time after 20 years of UN negotiations, they hope to accomplish a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with an ambitious but important aim to keep global warming under 2°C temperature increase.
 
The standpoint of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that global warming above 2°C would pose severe adverse outcomes, like the rise of extreme climate-based weather episodes. Climate professionals reckon that the global emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) will have to decrease by 40-70% by 2050 to achieve this. Also a reality of zero emissions, also known as carbon neutrality, should be attained by the end of the century, 2100.
 
Although the environment naturally emits small amounts of greenhouse gases, the rapid increase over the past century, since industrialisation, is the result of human intervention, and is a cause for serious concern globally. The continued commercial use of fossil fuels, intensive livestock raising, deforestation and agriculture contributes to the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which speeds up global warming. Initially there were six main greenhouse gases targeted by the Kyoto Protocol (1997), with an additional GHG since 2013. In total they include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride (since 2013).
 
Another important mission of COP21 is to achieve 100 billion dollars (roughly 78 billion euros) in funding subsidised by states, international organisations and private sectors annually by 2020. This contribution will help developing countries, which are often the most susceptible to climate-related risks such as rising sea levels and extreme weather, to tackle climate change and build resiliency, while encouraging fair and sustainable development.
 
For more information about COP21 please visit their website on: www.cop21paris.org

By: Abbe Ho
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