COP 21: From Paris to Post-2015
November 30th, 2015 marked the start of one of the most decisive climate change forums in our generation’s history. COP21, or the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hosted in Paris, is a continuation of the discussions that began at the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, where we saw international negotiations regarding the political response to mitigating climate change. At COP21, agreements between 195 countries determined the course of action that will, hopefully, guide the global community towards a more promisingly sustainable and environmentally conscious future.
Forty thousand delegates from around the world including national leaders, highly influential corporations and NGO’s, have come together to discuss the best methods to tackle a range of issues including reductions in GHGs (greenhouse gasses) adaptation and the alleviation of vulnerability to climate change, and the task of financing technological developments and more. The main goal of this binding agreement is to keep global warming below the established threshold of 2 degrees Celsius of warming. The pressure is on as decisions made now will affect the state of our planet for generations to come.
The first day of COP21 was kicked off by a call for action. President Barack Obama addressed the forum early in the day declaring, “Nearly 200 nations have assembled here this week. A declaration that for all the challenges we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other. And what should give us hope that this is the turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it.”
From there on we have seen a promising commitment by some of the most significant entities taking part in the climate discussions, especially those of the corporate world. The second day focused on strong reforestation measures to help combat carbon emissions, with a big business coalition announcing measures to stabilize forest cover by 2030 and to increase forest cover by 10 per cent from current levels by 2050. This past Tuesday we also saw 73 new companies including Amazon, Airbnb and BMW join the White House initiative to boost climate change efforts, bringing the total to 154 companies. Fifty four African Union countries, also, pledged $20 billion to develop at least 10-gigawatts of renewable energy capacity on the continent by 2020.
The next day marked a crucial step in the right direction as divestment pledges of more than $3.4 trillion in assets from over 500 international organizations were made to aid in the switch from fossil fuels to non-renewable energy. China, also, delivered news that it planned to cut it’s GHGs by 60 per cent by 2020 by updating the country’s coal-fired power plants, and as our world’s greatest carbon emitter, we can only hope the country keeps to this decision.
The issue of transportation, the sector with the highest growth in carbon dioxide emissions, was addressed during Thursday’s talks at the COP21. The Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change & Call to Action, launched on this past Thursday, revealed projections of a 50 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from transport.
And while all of these initiatives are a huge step towards a sustainable future, what matters most is that our leaders and corporations are held accountable for finalized agreements made at the end of this week. As we are faced with the threat of more powerful natural disasters, a worldwide environmental refugee crisis, increased heat related illnesses and diseases and much, much more, the gravity of this commitment could not be overstated. The future of our planet depends on it afterall.
By Lauren Jones