United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) COP21/CMP11 – Paris climate conference
As reflected in the title, this post is supposed to point out and tell you some general and important facts about the most important climate change conference which was held in Paris, from 30 November to 11 December 2015.
But first of all, I guess that all of us are aware of what climate change is, how it works, what greenhouse gases are, what may CO2, CH4 and N2O be and so on and so on, but I would like to show you two short YouTube videos. (Actually the first one is shorter and the second quite longer 10 minutes, but it shows some facts about the carbon dioxide equivalents and some interesting calculations of our carbon footprint issues in a direct and indirect way. The video shows in a lovely sketch that “sending a text message is greener than driving across the town to share the news,” or how to somehow reduce individual impacts on climate change.
Here they are:
- 5 Things to know about climate changed by National Geographic
- What you can do about climate change.
What was the Paris climate conference? While many thought (or still think) of it as a dinner banquet for 25 000 people where they were supposed to save to world from a total climate fiasco, let’s just peek at the last more than 40 years of, so called, negotiations. For our purposes I will stress out and sum up some of them.
Environmental historical sum up
Since the first summit on sustainable development in 1972 in Stockholm (Sweden) environmental issues have slowly become the focal point of the international agenda.
First World Climate Conference was held in Geneva in 1979 (Switzerland), where World Climate Research Programme was launched. All this recognition to revitalize humanity’s bond with Nature led to the creation of global institutions within the UN system like the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).
The creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988 (IPCC), allowed us to assess the knowledge of climate change and its impacts. The first IPCC report confirmed the existence of human responsibility for the global warming phenomenon.
The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) laid the foundations of green diplomacy. This summit and the previous activities resulted in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This treaty, to be practically honest, just said that countries should figure out how to accomplish certain goals (stabilization of the greenhouse gas level) using other future treaties.
Every year since 1995, (as the first UNFCCC took place in 1995 in Berlin, Germany) the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention, known as COP (well COP can be easily bear in mind than UNFCCC), has been held each year in a different country and attended by the 196 signatory states (195 states + EU) which try to face the climate change by reducing emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, which for the first time set quantified greenhouse gas reduction commitments for developed countries between 2008 and 2012, but no legal restrictions were imposed on developing countries like China or India, both significant polluters. And the US did not ratify this treaty.
Since the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol in 2005, the COP sessions are now paired with the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, known as CMP. There are 192 parties to the protocol but not the United States of America, Andorra, South Sudan and Canada.
The Montreal COP session in 2005, known as COP11/CMP1, was the first Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
In 2007 the Bali (Indonesia) Action Plan suggested the adoption of a new international agreement in 2009 that would follow on from the Kyoto Protocol which would end in 2012.
In 2009 in Copenhagen (Denmark), no new international agreement was signed, BUT!!! , COP15/CMP5 approved the shared target to limit global warming to 2°C, without more or less explaining how it would happen.
In 2010 in Cancún (Mexico) the Green Climate Fund was created as a call for the 100 billion USD p.a. by the state’s parties. It was concluded that the base year shall be 1990 and the global warming potentials shall be those provided by the IPCC.
In 2011, the creation of the Durban (South Africa) Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) was ordered by the Framework Convention to produce a new protocol a legal instrument with legal force adopted in 2015, before taking effect in 2020.
It was in 2012 that the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, applied to host the COP21 and one year later was France officially declared as a host country.
In 2012, to fill the legal vacuum the Doha (Qatar) Conference launched the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol 2013/2020.
In 2014 in Lima (Peru), a new approach was agreed on the so called INDC, letting a country decide on its own, how to fight climate change. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions are the pledges of these specific countries, detailing the steps that are taking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 or 2030.
For those who are interested, I attach these links where you can find the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the EU and its Member States, where at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emission by 2030 were set.
The contributions are not only limited to quantified targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They show that a vast majority of countries have set in motion, in a sustainable manner, their transition towards development models with low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Several countries – including Vanuatu, Cape Verde, Samoa and Papua New Guinea – also aspire to achieving “100% renewable energies” in the next fifteen years.
Sustainable forest management emerges as a priority. Mexico has set the target of 0% deforestation by 2030, and Brazil wants to end illegal deforestation by this date. The Democratic Republic of the Congo plans to plant some 3 million hectares of forest by 2025 at the latest. Cambodia aims to cover 60% of its territory with forests by 2030.
By assessing risks and vulnerabilities, countries can more effectively define national adaptation priorities. Burkina Faso wants to map flood-prone areas in cities with over 5,000 inhabitants. The Maldives have planned to relocate the commercial port in Malé, the capital, on an island that is less vulnerable to strong winds and rising sea levels. Gabon wants to raise the height of Mandji Island Free Trade Zone in order to remain out of reach of the rising oceans; Djibouti is developing a renewable energy-powered water desalination plant; Kenya wants to set up a regulatory framework to increase the resilience of private investments.
During the opening speech at Ambassadors’ Week in Paris in August 2015, the President of the French Republic reiterated the importance of COP21 by saying: “Our country, due to its position, role and influence, is responsible for taking part in negotiations that will decide the future of our planet.” “These negotiations are different from others,” added Laurent Fabius. “It is a race against time. We cannot lose this race, because there is no plan B, and there is no planet B.”
And finally here goes the centerpiece of the environmental issues up to now. From 30 November to 11 December 2015, Paris chaired and hosted the COP21/CMP11. Even after the terror that happened on the 13th of November 2015, more than 140 head of states governments came as scheduled to Paris to attend the COP21/CMP11. The conference was crucial because the expected outcome was a new international agreement on climate change, binding and applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2°C.
Thanks to Gustav Eiffel and other engineers, who constructed the global cultural icon of France, the COP21/CMP11 had a great marketing tool to promote and stimulate the emotions, the views and many psychological intentions of us, people.
The Eiffel tower was reflected in green on Sunday, one day before the start of the conference. It was the launch of an artistic work of the artist Naziha Mestaoui (an avant-garde artist and architect) with the aim to grow virtual trees on the Parisian monument, to help financing the reforestation operations. It was called “1 Heart 1 Tree”, and since the 28th of November, the monument was decorated with a virtual forest. Taking advantage of a mobile application, the users could plant a tree that grew with the rhythm of their heartbeat. The real progress of this virtual tree led to a plantation of a real one somewhere in the world. The application gave also the possibility to see the user’s name on the Eiffel Tower against a payment between 3 to 10 euros. This show was available until the 3rd of December 2015.
Below you can find more facts about this application and a video of it.
And of course thanks to many public and private bodies that have decided to be involved as partners during the session, the COP21 could accumulate the essential financial support. I would name the most known private sponsors who decided to figure on the list representing the eco-friendly approach of the P&R: RATP, Renault Nissan, EDF, IKEA, Orange, LVMH, Sanofi, Carrefour, Airfrance, Philips, L’oréal, Michelin, Suez, BNP Paris and many others.(For more information: http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/partners/ )
Using modern technologies, and various social medias, the logo of COP21/CMP11 could not have been missed…
Facebook, Twitter covers… Quai d’Orsay, many other institutions were covered by those posters…
“The planet is in our hands.”“We could not tell our children that we had not known.”
As all the marketing propaganda increased, the social tension increased exponentially.
France had dual responsibilities: to welcome all the participants (delegates from 196 countries- 195 + EU) under the best conditions for work and discussion and to facilitate the debates while ensuring a transparent and inclusive negotiation process, as decisions could only be taken unanimously.
The aim was to build a Paris Climate Alliance, capable of keeping the average global temperature rise below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels and adapt our societies to existing disruption. This Alliance had 4 components:
- The negotiation of a universal agreement according to the Durban mandate, in order to keep within the 2°C limit.
- The presentation of countries national contribution prior to COP21, in order to demonstrate that all states are moving forward.
- The financial aspect which should enable support for developing countries and financing the transition towards green economies. To mobilize 100 billion USD (78 billion EUR). This money scheme should therefore not be confused with the whole Green Climate Fund: only part of this sum will pass through the Fund.
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and the President of COP21, Laurent Fabius, has already reminded the rich countries, during the day dedicated to The Stakes of COP21 in August 2015, of the commitment they made in Copenhagen in 2009 to fund assistance for developing countries. He said: “$100 billion by 2020. It was already a promise, which has not been kept; now it must be an obligation. Without the $100 billion, there will be no agreement in Paris.”
France will invest in the renewable energy and other environmental projects in Africa with the sum of 6 billion euros, mainly for the electrification of the continent. For example a construction of a great green wall, which would go from Senegal to Djibouti, to block the desertification. (http://fr.euronews.com/2015/12/01/cop-21-la-france-va-investir-six-milliards-d-euros-en-afrique/)
- The strengthening of the commitments of civil society and non-governmental bodies and the multi-partner initiatives of the Agenda of Solutions or Lima-Paris Action Agenda, in order to involve all stakeholders and begin concrete actions prior to the entry into force of the future agreement in 2020. At the opening of the session, before the state’s interventions, Hollande announced a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of the attack of the 13th November 2015. Many powerful head of states and governments had a speech pointing at the importance of this session.
“What is at stake with this climate conference is peace. The fight against terrorism and the fight against climate change are two major global challenges we must face, “said by the French President.
An emotional intervention was also made by Britain’s Prince Charles: “I urge you to consider the needs of the youngest generation, because none of us has the right to assume that for our today they should give up their tomorrow.”
“The challenge is to save ourselves, not someone else, but ourselves,” was said by the Micronesia President Peter M. Christian, but in my opinion quite a strong and maybe egocentric statement…as far as I am concerned the climate change will mostly affect our future generations…
To make the first day complete, videos, tweets and “family photo” of the representatives had to be taken.
Can you identify some of the leaders?? Even the Slovak Prime Minister was not missing.
During the weeks there were many speeches, many activities done by the representatives. People could follow them live on the official cop21 website. But at the end, finally, after having a pessimistic point of view (there has not been an agreement yet on the 11th of December), a final agreement has been made, on Saturday the 12th of December 2015, called the Paris Agreement.
The link below gives you the possibility to take a look at the Paris Agreement, which is possible in the 6 UN languages.
Many claimed that the Agreement was not too perfect but this did not prevent them from marching historical steps forward.
“Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted,” declared Laurent Fabius strucking the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal.
Here are some key points included in the Agreement:
- To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century;
- To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2°C (3.6F);
- The Agreement even establishes, for the first time, that we should be aiming for 1.5°C, to protect island states, which are the most threatened by the rise in sea levels.
- To review progress every five years from 2020;
- $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.
Not to forget that it is peoples’ nature to always find someone to blame,…one of the main principles of climate negotiations is that countries have common but differentiated responsibilities when it comes to climate change, depending on their wealth in particular. The agreement establishes an obligation for industrialized countries to fund climate finance for poor countries, while developing countries are invited to contribute on a voluntary basis.
The agreement can only enter into force once it has been ratified by 55 countries, representing at least 55% of emissions.
LIMA-PARIS ACTION AGENDA as an important document to know (LPAA)
The Lima-Paris Action Agenda is a joint undertaking of the initiative of the Peruvian and French COP presidencies, the Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the UNFCCC Secretariat in recognition of the essential role that individual and collective commitments from non-state actors will lead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough and set the world on track to a climate-resilient and sustainable future. LPAA contextualizes and provides practical guidelines and orientations to both state and the non-state actors to implement the new legal agreement and support the UNFCCC process. Two “champions” will be selected from among these actors by the two successive presidencies of the COP (France COP21 and Morocco COP22) to encourage them to keep taking action.
“Almost nothing binding”.
Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations.”
Some aspects of the agreement will be legally binding, such as submitting an emissions reduction target and the regular review of that goal, but however many others will not like the targets set by nations.
2°C or 3°C or what ???
As things stand, and according to studies of the UNFCCC (http://www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/2c-target-result-of-state-contributions/) the global trajectory of GHG emissions mapped out by the published contributions would lead to a temperature increase of approximately 2.7 to 3°C at the end of the century, which is however, higher that the limit.
Yes I know, there are still many unanswered questions concerning all this theater. Will the year 2015 be the real turning point of the climate issues, OR will it just end as another treaty referring to a future treaty, while discussing the previous treaties or the consequences of possible treaties???…and so on and so on. I am not an expert to know the solution, but I know that we, and by WE I mean every single conscious being, should realize the matter of this issue. It is not about the pessimistic or optimistic charts showing such and such numbers, it is about appreciating our lives here on the Earth. Till now, we met failures and are doubtful about the negotiations of super delegates…some of them were a total waste of money and energy…And yet it is very difficult to judge the newly born legal document, as the fact that it has to go under the ratification process and all the legal stuff..BUT at least, via all these media and marketing tools, people are aware of that fact and try to follow and somehow be involved.
It is not all about the official delegates and negotiators , but at the end it is the people, NGOs, various entities and INDIVIDUALS who take concrete steps.
Thank you for reading.
Please feel free to comment, ask and discuss things.
by Christine Serhanová