Climate Talks in Paris

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AP Photo/Michel Euler

As the world is now heading towards an irreversible process of global warming with average temperature 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, millions of people turn their hope to the summit in Paris: the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21). For a noble and promising goal of “low-emissions, climate resilient growth that benefits all,” representatives from over 150 nations gathered in the conference. Also, according to to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, more than 180 national climate action plans were submitted before the Paris conference, which strongly displays the spectacular effort and global determination to improve the currently deteriorating environment. Therefore, we get the sense of the urgency for and imperative to control climate change.

Human attempts for climate control by international consensus can be traced back to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the historic Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which set the basic idea of international cooperation to reduce greenhouse gases. UNFCCC initiated a framework of negotiation and produced the Kyoto Protocol that bounded 192 countries for global response in climate change by reducing man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 5 percent below the 1990’s  level. However, this momentous agreement gradually faded away without the commitment of U.S. Afterwards, the world has changed as more and more countries realized the importance of regulating the boundless emission of greenhouse gases from some powerful developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa. To be specific, the EU Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR) database shows that China’s total CO2 emissions in 2012 was two times more than that of the U.S. Similarly, developed countries such as U.S. and EU members are on the highest ranking in per capita emissions. As a result, climate control is a shared obligation for both advanced and developing countries.

The natural tendency to cooperate with countries that have similar power and wealth divided all the participating countries in this climate talk into two groups: EU & Umbrella, which primarily consists of advanced Western countries and the Group of 77 & China, which is made up of 133 developing countries. This divide was evident in the setup of convention session because every country is assigned to their regional group.

The purpose for this large scale conference boils down to this: finding a legally binding and globally agreed-upon action on climate that can be implemented in the near future. Many view this gathering as the chance for the world to act collectively in preserving the climate and preventing further havoc. To take action, each of the countries attending the conference were expected to bring a national plan, and leaders of France, Germany, Mexico, Chile, Canada, and Ethiopia all proposed to tax CO2 emitted by factories.

Also another very interesting aspect is that the mayors and officials from more than 500 cities throughout the world organized and attended their own summit in Paris, which was hosted by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo. This separate summit highlights the practical progress of reducing CO2 in small sections such as cities that have plenty of factories and power plants. The most inspiring result of this summit is that approximately 400 mayors from different cities have signed the Compact of Mayors, which adapts a common measurement system for emissions and every city’s goal for climate control.

Current climate conditions and deciding what actions to take to prevent further climate change are tentative matters. For instance, the rules for monitoring gas emissions are still undecided after all the conference sessions. Partly, this is because of the disagreement between countries, but mostly, preserving our climate today is a global project that requires everyone to be involved and actively participating. With efforts such as COP21, which delivers hope and optimism for not only the 40,000 assembled officials and journalists, but also the public concerned about climate in general, nations are able to work on a platform of unity, communication and cooperation for the purpose of preventing climate change. This truly is our world’s decisive step towards a greener, brighter future.