Looking Forward to Paris 2015: Fireworks Expected at the United Nations’ 21st Climate Change Convention

The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) is scheduled for November 30th and will run through December 11th of 2015. The Convention, also known as the UNFCCC was created in 1994 and was ratified by 196 states, according to the official event web page. The Conference’s decision makers, or Conference of Parties, meet every year to create and establish goals in order to combat climate change that they agree to acknowledge is caused by human activity. This year promises to be an especially exciting year with the presidential elections in the United States heating up and the Pope’s keen interest in climate change.

Laurent Fabius, minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, explained in a video message on the site that the current global leadership has “a historic responsibility as we are the first generation to really become aware of the problem and yet the last generation that can deal with it.” The webpage stated that the goals of the conference include the following:

“The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.

To achieve this, the future agreement must focus equally on mitigation – that is, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2°C – and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes. These efforts must take into account the needs and capacities of each country. The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change.

In addition, each country must publish its national contribution, presenting its national efforts, as soon as possible and before COP21. This exercise is a new development in international climate negotiations and France has undertaken to help certain countries that are in difficulty to prepare their contribution, so that each one can present a national contribution to the global effort against climate change that corresponds to its situation. Shortly before COP21, the UNFCCC secretariat will publish a summary of these contributions, to give an indication of the cumulative impact of all these efforts.”

Pope Francis has been vocal about his encouragement that participants in the conference take an aggressive approach, according to Reuters. This followed his encyclical on climate change in June, which he attributed to causing “poverty and forced migration.”

Reuters quoted the Pope’s statements about his “great hopes that a fundamental agreement is reached. The United Nations needs to take a very strong stand on this.” The Pope’s church is 1.2 billion members strong and his endorsement could have an incredible impact on public opinion and could impose significant pressure on the COP21 participants.

There are some critics of the conference’s approach, says The critics are reported to take issue with the voluntary nature of the approach. This will result in ambitious goals that will not likely be met by their respected countries. Additionally, critics claim that the goals proposed until this point have not been sufficient to avoid the most disastrous of outcomes if global temperatures exceed an increase of 2 degrees Celsius. These critics are skeptical of the celebration surrounding the increased participation rate in the combat of climate change because some believe it is too little, too late.

The UNFCCC COP21 conference has the potential to harness the increased enthusiasm in the global effort to curb emissions and urge the participating countries to increase regulations even further than they already have and work together to brainstorm solutions for a sustainable future. This would require the commitment of each party to ideas that might have long-term benefits as opposed to short-term ones. It is, however, possible and the prospect of a greener global society has given many the hope that this conference will succeed.

Aug 12th 2015

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