Next month, the governments of more than 190 nations will meet in France to forge a new international agreement on climate change that aims to reduce global warming.
The 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), also known as “Paris 2015,” will convene from November 30th to December 11th. The governments intend to realize an agreement that extends current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions that end in 2020. More than 40,000 participants, delegates representing each country, observers, and civil society members will attend.
The UNFCC, a universal convention of principle, acknowledges human-induced climate change and conferring industrialized countries the major part of responsibility for combating it. The Conference of the Parties (COP), comprising “States Parties,” is the Convention’s supreme decision-making body. It meets annually in a global session where decisions are made to meet goals for combating climate change. Decisions can only be made unanimously by the States Parties or by consensus.
The UNFCC aims to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement among participants to combat climate change effectively while facilitating the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. To achieve this, the future agreement must focus equally on mitigation—efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2°C—and adaption, whereupon societies’ adapt to existing climate changes. The agreement, which will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change, is slated to take effect in 2020.
Meanwhile, ahead of the UNFCC in Paris, 14 companies including oil giant PB PLC and global mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd., signed a statement organized by Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) in support of a Paris climate agreement. The statement calls for negotiators at UNFCC to adopt “a more balanced and durable multilateral framework guiding and strengthening national efforts to address climate change.”
These and other large companies are seeking “predictability and global standards to help shape their long-term strategies, including plans for natural gas and other lower-carbon fuels,” reports William Maudlin in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Elliott Diringer, C2ES’s executive vice president, quoted on WSJ.com, said, “These companies need to navigate their way through the low-carbon transition and are looking for clearer, more consistent guidance from governments, which is why they see benefits in a Paris agreement.”
The upcoming UNFCC has spurred extensive activity in the past year among industrialized countries. At last year’s EU Brussels summit in October, European leaders struck a broad climate change pact that obligates the EU as a whole to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 40% by 2030 while increasing energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27%. The latter would be optional, although it could be raised to 30% by a review in 2020.
French President François Hollande said the deal sends a clear message to big (emitters) such as China and the United States ahead of UN talks in Paris next year to agree global legally binding greenhouse gas emissions,” according to EurActiv.com.
One month after the EU’s summit, the United States and China released a joint statement on climate change revealing for the first time both countries’ post-2020 emissions targets. These targets will also serve as their pledges for the 2015 negotiations in Paris. The US will cut its emissions by 26% to 28%, compared with 2005 levels, by 2025.