France will chair and host the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The conference is crucial because the expected outcome is a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C, a level that would ensure safety of the planet’s fragile resources. If that level is not achieved, it could have devastating consequences on world populations and survival.
One of the challenges of the Paris agreement, where heads of state will all gather, will be to establish a periodic – ideally five-year – review mechanism to raise the ambition of each Party and progressively improve the collective effort toward keeping global warming below 2°C.
Each country represented will obviously have reasons to participate but also issues, largely economic and political, that may create a climate of resistance to the review mechanism.
Royal Insight from Prince Charles
Prince Charles of the UK, The Prince, a tireless climate change campaigner for the past four decades, will deliver a keynote speech at the opening of COP21 next Monday.
He gave an exclusive interview to Sky News three weeks ago (well before the Paris attacks) about his ongoing concerns about climate change, saying he believes there is evidence to suggest that the reason for the Syrian conflict and resulting terrorism was drought. “We need to deal with the problem of the movement of people as a result of not being able to survive,” he said.
Environmental issues may have been one of the root causes of the problems in Syria. He said: “We’re seeing a classic case of not dealing with the problem, because, I mean, it sounds awful to say, but some of us were saying 20 years ago that if we didn’t tackle these issues, you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought, and the accumulating effect of climate change, which means that people have to move.
“And, in fact, there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough, was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land.” Displaced people who depended largely on agriculture moved to the cities that were already full of Iraqi refugees.
While Prince Charles is expected to steer clear of political topics because of his role in the monarchy, when asked if there is a direct link between climate change, conflict and terrorism, he said, “It’s only in the last few years that the Pentagon has actually started to pay attention to this. I mean, it has a huge impact on what is happening.”
He does appear doubtful that the UN countries will be able to reach a consensus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as there have been numerous conferences in the past to this end. His concern is that the issue is often being dealt with in a short-term way, which has left the “underlying root cause” of what humans are doing to the natural environment neglected.
“The difficulty is that by the time you try to take the action, it’s already too late,” he said.
“After the conference, it’s going to be very difficult I think to get agreement on the necessary reductions and the necessary actions that need to be taken to keep global warming at 2 degrees, or ideally below. So we then have to follow up, this is the key, and ratchet up the commitments after the Paris conference.”
Canada’s New Approach to Curbing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
After a meeting with the country’s premiers of 10 provinces to figure out a national strategy for climate change, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they will demonstrate Canada is serious about climate change at the Paris conference.
Trudeau’s Liberals won an election last month promising radical change on the environment from the previous Conservative administration, that was widely criticized for not taking enough action to combat global warming during its nearly ten years in power.
Canada must curb its greenhouse gas emissions, according to Trudeau. Alberta, home to most of Canada’s oil sands, said on Sunday that it would implement an economy-wide tax on carbon emissions in 2017.
According to a news report, Trudeau and the provinces hope their united approach and Alberta’s move will help dispel some of the international suspicion about Canada and climate change.
At previous U.N. summits the Conservative government sometimes found itself in disagreement with activist groups and even some provinces, perhaps because of the Conservative administration’s leanings.
“We need to show a renewed image of Canada to the world,” said Quebec premier Philippe Couillard.
The concern about Canadian employment has some premiers worried, because low crude prices have triggered major job losses among energy industry workers. There needs to be a balance between protecting and employment and the environment.
The organization, Architecture 2030, will play a vital role in the events at COP21, with their headlined offerings: “Paris: ZERO by 2050.”
UNFCCC Buildings Day, December 3rd, has planned the first ever “Buildings Day” to be held as part of the UNFCCC climate change talks. Their goal is to launch and alliance of organizations committed to putting the building sector on track to zero carbon by the year 2050. This event has free registration.
Zero Emissions by 2050
Symposium on December 9th, registration required, is focused on the “how-to” of ensuring zero emissions in the built environment by 2050.
A panel chaired by Farhana Yamin of Track O with Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, and Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change will outline why the Paris talks must convey decarbonization of the global economy and built environment.
Edward Mazria will give a keynote outlining the pathways, programs and tools available to achieve this goal and expert panels will address:
- City and district building initiatives
- Innovative building sector financing and building materials
- Innovative building design and planning tools
Background on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted during the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. This Framework Convention is a universal convention of principle, acknowledging the existence of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change and giving industrialized countries the major part of responsibility for combating it.
The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992 was a milestone in the international negotiations on tackling climate change. For the first time, binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were set for industrialized countries. The protocol, which entered into force in 2005, was intended to cover the period 2008-2012.
A longer-term vision was introduced by the Bali Action Plan in 2007, which set timelines for the negotiations towards reaching a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012. It was expected that an agreement would be reached by December 2009.
Although Copenhagen , Denmark, did not result in the adoption of a new agreement, COP15/CMP5 recognized the common objective of keeping the increase in global temperature below 2°C. Furthermore, industrialized countries undertook to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to assist developing countries in climate-change adaptation and mitigation. Cancún, Mexico, in 2010 made the 2°C target more tangible by establishing dedicated institutions on key points, such as the Green Climate Fund.
The willingness to act together was reflected in the establishment, in 2011, of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), whose mandate is to bring all countries, both developed and developing, to the table to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” applicable to all the States Parties to the UNFCCC. This agreement should be adopted in 2015 and implemented from 2020.
Most of the information on the upcoming conference can be found on the COP21 website