En Route to Paris

December of 2015 marks a pivotal month in the history of climate change as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 21) represents an opportunity to alter our trajectory.

Governments, sustainability professionals, and corporate executives from around the world will assemble in Paris, seeking to establish post-2020 global objectives for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The conference will take place from November 30th – December 11th.

Such negotiations come at an opportune time, as climate change has become ever-present, and carbon dioxide emissions are intensifying at an alarming pace.

But the assembly in Paris is beset with uncertainty.

uncertainty

The Path to Paris:

“COP 21” is short form for the 21st gathering of the Conference of the Parties. For decades, governments have convened on climate change approximately once a year, but to no avail. Futile attempts have been made to negotiate best practices in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenbiz comments on the progress.

If progress seems slow, consider that these negotiations are among the last of their kind. World trade negotiations aimed at removing trade barriers among developed and developing countries, known as the “Doha round,” collapsed in 2008. Only a handful of global treaties have been negotiated in the past four decades, with most of these covering narrow issues and lacking strong incentives for countries to comply. Climate change, by contrast, is possibly the most intractable problem of our times, and solving it will require an unprecedented upheaval of the world economy to rebalance away from the fossil fuels which have been the engine of growth for more than a century and a half.

The last Conference of the Parties (COP 20) was held in Lima, Peru at which time country ambassadors discussed 2020 goals. COP 20 was directly responsible for the monumental agreement between the United States and China that took place in November of 2014.

The agreement represented China’s first-ever commitment to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Prior to November of 2014, the nation had solely asserted commitment to reduce the rate of growth of its emissions. China not only agreed to cap output of carbon dioxide by 2030, but also to increase its use of zero-emission energy by 20%. The agreement represented a steep commitment on behalf of the United States, as President Barrack Obama announced a vow to cut emissions by 26-28% from 2005 baseline levels by 2025 – twice the pace of reduction the U.S. had agreed to from 2005 – 2020. These commitments trail an impressive pledge from the European Union (EU) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by 40% before 2030.

The Paris Assembly:

Both developed and developing countries must step up to bat in Paris. Absolute reductions are expected from industrialized nations, while relative reductions and/or curtailments are expected from the less-wealthy emerging nations.

Post-2020 targets must be established.

Why post-2020? Because many nations have already declared varying commitments to reduce emissions through the year 2020, established at the 2009 gathering in Copenhagen – a conference followed with such turmoil and chaos that the 2020 vows became blurry: valid, but not legally binding.

If this is merely one of twenty-one COP gatherings, why is the Paris Assembly so important?

We have reached unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments have long disagreed over which actions should be taken, and by whom. Responsibility is a word that has been tossed around aimlessly. In 1990, the IPCC published a scientific assessment warning the world to take climate change seriously. Two years later, all UN countries signed an agreement to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system”, without delineating any further specifics. In 1997, an international emissions reduction agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol was established – only to meet opposition from the United States, refusing to ratify because emissions targets were not imposed on the developing world.

Years of inertia ensued, until the aforementioned 2009 conference in Copenhagen, which proved just how delicate the negotiations had become.

We are seeing remarkable momentum building toward a historic conference in Paris in the closing days of 2015, by the end of which we will either have a new international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, or we will have seen the last of truly global efforts to strike a deal on saving our planet. – Greenbiz.

Experts in both government and sustainability are deeming the Paris Assembly as either the ultimate solution or the last resort.

If there is no succinct outcome, the world may lose faith in the United Nations’ ability to ever coerce nations to reach global agreement to alleviate the climate change that is inflicting our planet.

147 days remain.


Featured Photograph by Tom Bricker.

7 thoughts on “En Route to Paris

  1. Excellent post, TSI. Great set up to Paris 2015. What do you think are achievable yet meaningful targets for the Conference? IMHO the US needs to lead. Obama can only do so much via executive action–which he’s largely done (stymied at least temporarily by SCOTUS on coal). For the US to truly show the way, the GOP-controlled Congress needs to buy in that 1) climate change is real, 2) it’s human caused, 3) we need to do something(s) meaningful about it, and 4) the economy will, in some cases benefit. I’m not a wild eyed optimist on this but I do see some hope through a legislative proposal centered on a Carbon Fee & Dividend scheme. Check it out via citizensclimatelobby.org. If pro-action-on-climate Presidential and Congressional candidates do well in 2016, that will help. Whaddya think?

    Like

    • Hey greensportsblog!

      Hope all is well & thanks for the comment. I checked out the legislative proposal. I agree with you that the United States needs to lead the way. While corporations are indeed invited to Paris, it seems reasonable to conclude that any real action is going to come from government mandates, and thus I dually agree with you that pro-action on climate change policy makers become crucially important. In terms of what should be done, it seems a good start would be a carbon tax and mandated reporting. Companies are not currently coerced to internalize the negative externalities they are putting forth on this planet. And, while an increasing amount of companies are issuing sustainability reports, reporting is still voluntary. Consumers, investors, and shareholders must do their part too and stop fueling the fire of corporations refusing to adhere to high renewable energy standards.

      Fingers crossed for a successful two weeks of negotiation in Paris!

      Like

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