COP21: key discussions explained.

Posted on 20.11.2015

In two weeks time, leaders from over 190 countries will be settling into intense discussion in Paris for COP21. The 21st Conference of Parties, or the Paris Climate Conference, aims to reach a deal that will help the world avoid the worst effects of climate change, whilst addressing complex aims and issues.

First of these, is the need for ‘ambitious action before and after 2020′, as identified by a combined report from organisations such as Christian Aid and Green Alliance (Full report here). Any deal reached will not come into force until 2020, and in order to try to remain within ‘acceptable’ levels of warming, set by many scientists at 2 degrees (above pre-industrial levels), action on reducing emissions needs to be extensive, aggressive, and begin immediately. Essentially “the longer we wait the harder it is going to be,” clarifies research scientist Kevin Schaefer.

This includes the key point to remember: that action on climate change doesn’t just mean less coal and oil. We also need to manage deforestation, promote sustainable agriculture, and decrease cement production to help reduce emissions further.

Similarly any deal must have robust rules and a legal basis that can be enforced in the legal system of every involved country – however different they may be. Read the Carbon Brief for an in-depth exploration of the legal situation. Part of making any deal workable means reflecting the individual economic situation of each nation – including the fact that some countries have contributed a great deal more to climate change than others.

Here there is already a difference between COP21 and previous climate negotiations – this time each country will arrive in Paris already having submitted their individual proposal for action. The EU, for example, will cut emissions by 40% (from 1990 levels), by 2030. On the other hand, China, whose fossil fuel emissions are still growing in line with their economy, offers that levels will peak by 2030.

Climate finance will be another key issue of the discussion. Climate change will not impact the world in a distributed and respectful manner, and there is a great demand for a global finance fund to help individual countries adapt – particularly those with fewer economic resources.

This ‘Green Climate Fund’ will be used both to lessen the severity of impacts, for example through supporting the shift to a low carbon economy, and also for adaptation to the effects of extreme climate. The aim is to leverage $100 billion dollars a year by 2020, from pledges by industrialised nations, as well as private sources. Establishing sources for this fund will be crucial, as will be aligning the deal with UN Sustainable Development Goals. Success on both of these fronts could ensure that the next generation establishes “health, food and energy security, whilst helping eradicate poverty “ (Green Alliance, 2014).

It seems disproportionate that any deal reached will impact global activities for all future generations, yet will be negotiated over just 14 days. But COP21 is really just the beginning of action, hopefully a global deal will be reached that signifies the beginning of a long-term, coordinated global response to a threatened climate, one which will be revised and reassessed as our low carbon world gains momentum.

Invisible Dust artist Adam Chodzko has created ‘Deep Above’ about why we find it hard to change our behaviour with climate change and opens at the Watershed Bristol on 20th November 2015.

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