We are exactly one month away from the ‘Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’! That’s a mouthful. But what it really means is: the 2015 United Nations Climate Submit begins November 30th. Which is kind of a big deal and could finally (?) mean an international (and even binding) agreement on what to do about climate change. But things aren’t quite that easy and it’s likely (as the past 20 years have proved) that things actually won’t change, but then again, this time around, there is some room for optimism.
A little bit of Background: To understand why there might be hope of a resolution in this round of climate talks, we need to look at what has been done in the past. First off, international climate talks are nothing new. They’ve been happening on and off since 1992 (which is kind of crazy when you think about – this essentially means governments have at least passively been aware and possibly recognizing climate change for over 20 years – whoa). Nothing concrete has really come out of any of these talks, but they have laid the groundwork for the current negotiations and have helped to ‘get countries on board the climate change bus’. Here’s a few highlights:
- 1992, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – this was the first time countries had met over the issue of climate change, and while the agreement to force governments to take action against increased greenhouse gas emissions had no teeth (aka: no binding agreement or repercussions when targets were not met), it did at least start the conversation.
- 1997, The Kyoto Protocol – This time around, countries actually agreed to limit emissions and assigned each country an emissions reduction allocation. Things went a bit awry when the US Congress refused to ratify the treaty, which meant there weren’t enough countries on board to actually make the protocol binding. In an aside: eventually the treaty was ratified by Russia, years later, but by that point, the Protocol had been ‘de-clawed’ and became irrelevant. Despite the failed attempt, it was the first step to actually writing up an international agreement on climate change that had specified reductions. Baby steps.
- 2009, Copenhagen Conference – This conference is still considered a success by some and a failure by others. Essentially, all the countries present (all 196 of them) agreed to limit greenhouse emissions (not enough to actually stop climate change, but enough to make a small dent). Which was huge. But the conference failed to produce a legally binding agreement (actually, it failed to produce really any written agreement). So that wasn’t good. But it did signify that at least you could get all 196 countries to agree on something (which when you think about it, is pretty huge).
And now that leads us to the months heading up to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference. There have been (and will continue to be) negotiations going up all the way to November 30, 2015 (when the actual conference begins), and so far, things look okay. Most of the developed countries have already agreed to reduce (or stall) emissions: the European Union says it will cut 40% of its emissions from 1990 to 2030, the US up to 28% of its emissions from 2005 to 2025, and China will reach an emissions peak by 2030. So that’s good. Most experts agree this won’t be enough to actually stop climate change, but it’s at least headed in the right direction. And of course, there are still a number of hurtles to overcome. Namely, how do you deal with developing vs. developed countries? This has long been a sticking point. Is it right to expect developing countries to have the same restrictions as developed countries (and potentially risk slowing the economy and stalling advancement)? And of course, there’s always the question of money. Who exactly is going to pay for all this? And in the end, will the emissions be enough?
And so the saga continues. Stay tuned for updates….
Inspiration (and for more information) came from The Guardian
And an interesting take on the story from NPR
This Infographic is pretty great too