This week, the fall semester will come to a close, and so will the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference. If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, here’s a little rundown of what you missed.
- The Climate Conference is officially the 21st Conference of Parties (which explains why the trending hashtag is COP21). The Conference of Parties is an annual meeting of all 195 nations that participate in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These meetings serve to assess the nations’ response to climate change, and can also negotiate agreements and goals for the nations’ to better combat this pressing issue. This meeting will see more than 40,000 delegates from 195 countries, and is the largest conference that the French government has ever organized.
- The specific goal of this year’s conference is for the nations’ to come to a consensus on a legally binding agreement that aims to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (which is the threshold that scientists agree would have disastrous effects on the habitability of the planet). Some argue that the limit should be lower. Regardless, we are set to reach 1 degree Celsius this year, so something must be done. With significant reductions on emissions, especially from the United States and China (the largest emitters), and support for sustainable development in all countries, we may be able to avoid crossing that threshold.
- This final week of negotiations will address proposed compromises, make revisions and edits as necessary, and ideally be finished by Thursday, December 10th, in order for legal verification and translation to the six official UN languages (English, French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish) to take place so that the agreement can be officially adopted on Friday, December 11th, at the closing session.
It’s important for this conference to achieve it’s goal. Without this agreement, there won’t be anything regulating greenhouse gas emissions or sustainable development practices after 2020 (when the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement established at at COP 7, will run out). Without these regulations, it’s pretty much guaranteed that the planet will cross the 2 degree Celsius threshold. With that, we can expect changes in weather (hot and cold), changes in agriculture and food supply, and general strife as an unprepared planet is faced with an unpredictable environment. We can all take steps to fight against climate change by reducing our carbon footprint through sustainable practices in our transportation, our energy use, and even the things we buy day to day.