Published on November 30th, 2015
30th of November marks the beginning of one of the leading international summits on climate change, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), in Paris. The most renowned world leaders are attending the event where a legal and transparent agreement on climate change can be established, to prevent global temperature from rising more than 2°C by the end of the century. Clima@EduMedia helps clarify and answer several relevant issues regarding this summit.
Where does the name COP21 come from?
Officially, the name of this summit is 21st Conference of the Parties, with “COP” as an abbreviation. The entity responsible for the event’s organisation is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This summit will also hold the 11th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which oversees the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and the decisions taken to improve its efficiency.
What is the UNFCCC?
It is the agency of the United Nations responsible for climate, and its headquarters is in Bonn, Germany. The 1992 Conference of Rio de Janeiro adopted this convention and Portugal ratified it in 1993 (Decree No. 20/93 of 21 June).
What is the work of COP?
COP meets annually to discuss and to take decisions on combating climate change. COP was held for the first time in Berlin between the 28th of March and the 7th of April 1995. The Kyoto Protocol was precisely discussed and negotiated and it emerged in what was the third meeting of the COP, which took place in that Japanese city.
Who is in the COP?
This summit included nearly 200 countries that have signed and ratified the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.
What is the main goal of COP21?
A new agreement between countries is expected to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The goal is to limit a 2ºC rise in global temperature by 2100, thus reducing global warming. In line with what happened in Lima, Peru, in 2014, this conference aims to establish a new agreement to be implemented in 2021 and replace the Kyoto Protocol.
Where and when will COP21 be held?
The COP21 will be held from the 30th of November to the 11th of December 2015, in Paris-Le Bourget (France).
Who is attending?
More than 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are involved. The leaders of the countries with the highest emission rate of greenhouse gases will be present: Barack Obama (President of the United States), Xi Jinping (President of China) and Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India). Watchers, civil society members and journalists will also be attending.
How many people and how many Portuguese representatives will be at the summit?
It is not yet clear how many people will be representing Portugal. According to a source from the Portuguese Environment Agency, technical staff from the institution, along with business staff, non-governmental organisations, environment and development organisations and universities will be at the event. Quercus - National Association for Nature Conservation- will represent Portugal at the event starting at the 8th of December, and will participate in the initiative “Train to Paris” which consists of a synchronised network of trains to Paris from all over Asia and Europe, with some trains originating from Mongolia, Russia and China. During the journey, a debate will take place on the importance of rail transport as a means of sustainable and low-carbon transport.
What will be on the table for COP21?
There is a final document that resulted from the Lima Conference entitled “Lima Call for Climate Action”. It contains the basic elements of a possible new global agreement to enter into force in January 2021. If established, this agreement will replace the Kyoto Protocol since it expires in 2020.
The proposal that emerged in the last COP set up the minimum standards for the presentation, by the various countries, of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC). These represent very concrete actions to combat climate change, especially to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas effect.
What is the conference’s expected outcome?
In Paris, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), in other words, the national plans for climate action that each country has voluntarily submitted, are to be discussed and defined. By the 25th of November, 171 countries (including Portugal) had already submitted these contributions, showing what they are willing to do regarding climate change. The purpose of the presentation of these contributions is to set a basis for emissions reduction and climate resilience strengthening.
In this meeting, a credible funding package should also be established. This initiative is intended mainly for developing countries that will require international cooperation to combat climate change more effectively (e.g. resorting to technology).
Developed countries will have to explain in greater detail how they will fulfil the commitment made earlier to mobilise 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 to assist developing countries.
Will the INDC be enough?
No. Recent studies indicate that even if countries implement the INDCs in full, the planet will still suffer an increase in global temperature between 2.7ºC and 3.5ºC (depending on the estimates used in the models). These figures are still very high, but, if nothing is done, a global temperature rise of more than 4ºC is expected to be registered. In the future, further negotiations will be made to reinforce the level of ambition and reach the 2°C limit or less.
What is the role of civil society in COP21?
Alongside the conference, there will be a series of events that aim to raise awareness about climate change and pressing political leaders to reach an agreement.
If there is an agreement, what could change?
It will be a decisive starting point in the way all the countries involved can trace a path to limit the rise in global temperature to below 2°C, as internationally established, working together, and based on a transparent and legal agreement.
What will happen if the countries fail to reach an agreement in Paris?
It will be much harder to carry out international cooperation on climate change. Without the cooperation of all parties, the capacity we have to limit climate change will be diminished.
Sources: United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC); UNFCCC; CNN; Portuguese Environment Agency; Quercus.
By: Renata Silva
By: Renata Silva