97% of scientists agree: climate change is the most pressing issue of our time, but now it seems that politicians unanimously agree too. Between the 30th of November and the 11th of December, representatives from 196 countries have assembled in the COP21 in Paris. There they have recently signed an important treaty to combat climate change. Here are eight things everyone should know about the COP21.
1. 21 stands for years, not members
Unlike the G7, the Group of Seven (major advanced economies), the COP21 stands for the 21st annual Conference Of the Parties. The first COP, COP1, took place in Berlin in 1995, from the 28th of March to the 7th of April.
2. Every COP has a CMP since 2005
During the time period of each COP, there is also a meeting of the CMP, a meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force in 2005. The CMPs are also held at the same place as the COP. The first CMP took place in Montreal. The COP21 in Paris this year is therefore also the CMP11.
3. Kyoto Protocol?
The first international treaty to combat climate change was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as The Earth Summit, and took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Kyoto Protocol, proposed at the COP3 in 1997, is a continuation of the plans to combat global warming, but was infamously not ratified by the United States. Later Canada revoked the pledges it made in the Kyoto Protocol. It was decided in Durban in 2011 that a new climate treaty should be established at the COP21 in Paris.
4. COP 2 goals, 1 conference
At the COP21 members try to address two issues. (1) To limit greenhouse gas emissions that are driving the global temperature up by almost 2°C, and (2) to rethink human progress, meaning to rethink how people produce, farm, do business, and consume more ‘climate friendly’.
5. The critical 2°C
Often in the news you hear about a threshold of 2°C. This is the critical spot that is usually referred to as the amount of warming when the damage of climate change will be too unpredictable or too undesirable. It is also the limit in the rise in the average global temperature that world leaders, such as the members of the COP21, would like to stay under, because it’s a simple, easy-to-understand, and achievable bar.
6. Life or death battle
For many island states, that were present at the COP21, the issue of climate change is seen as an armageddon. If the projected warming of the planet persists, the sea will rise just enough to flood these nations, and bury them under the ocean as a modern day Atlantis. Climate change is also predicted to most severely affect the European island states like Ireland and the United Kingdom with extreme storms and unpredictable weather.
Member states of the COP21 have pledged to keep the rise in global temperature well below 2°C, and pursue efforts to keep it at 1,5°C. The general plan is that emissions of greenhouse gasses should reach their all-time peak soon, and then drop immediately. The equivalent of about 88 billion Euros per year are pledged to help developing nations to set up ‘climate friendly’ industries. Lastly, every five years there will be a review, if all countries are keeping up with their pledges.
8. Critical reactions
Some voices say that, while this climate deal is progressive, it does not combat climate change well enough, and that many of the pledges that were made are not legally binding.
Written by Willem Laurentzen, AEGEE-Nijmegen