The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21 or CMP 11) was held in Paris, France, from 30 November to 12 December 2015. It was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (CMP).
196 parties attended the conference to negotiate the Paris Agreement which is aiming to reduce climate change. Climate change seems to be the most important issue facing our planet today as stated by more than 150 world leaders that attended the conference including Presidents Obama, Putin and Xi.
Climate Change Prediction
Change in average surface temperature (1986−2005 to 2081−2100), Source: IPCC 2014, Synthesis Report
According to the IPCC’s 2014 Synthesis Report, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the same rate throughout the 21st century, the surface temperature is projected to rise up to 11 degrees Celsius. This will result to increased heat waves and precipitation events that will last longer and be more intense and severe. Sea levels will rise dramatically and cause the elimination of many species.
Goal of Paris 2015
The goal was to reach an agreement to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gases are the main cause of global warming, two times more harmful than man-made aerosols, solar energy and volcanic activity.
To reach this goal the greenhouse gas emissions have to be limited to a net zero level sometime in the second half of the 21st century. France takes the lead in this attempt being one of the few developed countries in the world that from 2012 have managed to generate over 90% of its electricity from zero carbon sources, including nuclear, hydroelectric and wind.
Top 3 Emitting Regions
The top 40 CO2 emitting countries across the world in 1990 and 2012, including per capita figures. The data is taken from the EU Edgar database
The role of China, U.S. and Europe is of great importance to reach this goal, as together they are the top 3 emitting regions in 2012, accounting for more than half of the total CO2 emissions globally. During the last two decades, from 1990 to 2012, China and the United States increased their CO2 emissions while Europe managed to decrease this percentage.
Prior to the conference, the so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) were published in a series of proposals to be achieved during the next decades. The suggested commitments were to:
- Limit global warming temperature increase to 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100
- Reduce greenhouse gases emitted by human activity by 40% by 2030 compared to 1990
- To review each country’s contribution to cutting emissions every 5 years beginning in 2023
- To help poorer nations to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy
On 12th December 2015, 195 of the participating countries agreed by consensus to the Paris Agreement to reduce emissions as part of the method for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Τhe members of the conference agreed to take action in order to reduce their carbon output and to do their best to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celcius. France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said this “ambitious and balanced” plan was a “historic turning point” in the goal of reducing global warming.
The agreement will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Such parties will need to sign the agreement in New York between 22 April 2016 to 21 April 2017, and also adopt it within their own legal systems. However, there remain doubts as to whether the good will of the past few weeks will carry over to the US next year.
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