Our Task

This year, in the race to prevent dangerous climate change, the world’s governments are negotiating an agreement that will set a timetable for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We’re asking – how will it actually work?

The Paris Conference:

In December this year, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be held in Paris. At this conference, delegates from 195 countries will attempt to reach agreement on the timetable and actions to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to a level that  limits the global average temperature increase to “below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels”.

Given the growing seriousness of the climate change issue, this conference is expected to be unlike any before it under the 1992 Convention. Encouragingly, at an earlier conference in 2011, it was agreed by all countries that an “outcome with legal force … and applicable to all parties, would be adopted at the conference in December 2015.”

The UNFCCC is the only international framework for addressing climate change where all countries have a voice and the Paris COP is a unique opportunity to unite the current patchwork of binding and non-binding arrangements into a single, comprehensive and effective regime for combating climate change.

The Not-So-Good News:

A successful agreement in December is by no means a foregone conclusion. Previous UNFCCC conferences have failed to achieve the goal of stabilising greenhouse-gas emissions in the atmosphere and the delegates at a similar conference in Copenhagen in 2009 were unable to reach meaningful consensus.

If we don’t get things right in Paris, time is running out.  Conservative estimates produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) state that ‘business as usual’ emissions will lock in a rise of at least four degrees globally by 2100, which will have extreme environmental, economic, political and social ramifications worldwide. To keep “below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” will require very ambitious reductions in emissions within the next 30 years.

The Good News:

Nevertheless, there is considerable optimism for the Paris conference. Detailed negotiations have been taking place since 2011 and a draft text for Paris was circulated in Lima last year, and finalised for discussion earlier this year. Conditions are now more favourable than ever for an agreement on an emissions reduction timetable. While the Paris agreement cannot be a fix-all, it is the best tool we have at present with which to alter the global emissions trend post 2020.

The draft text is available to the public. But it’s long, often hard to follow and, in parts, very technical.

Where We Come in:

We have created this website to document our ongoing deconstruction of this text. We want to look at its goals and its proposed models for change. Do they make sense in their own terms? Are they consistent? Will they be effective? Legal text needs to be clear, specific, binding and enforceable, and we’re working through every provision of the draft agreement to highlight issues and parts that might not work as intended.

Our aim is to create a high quality legal resource on the 2015 Paris text for those involved in climate change work, policy makers, politicians, media and the wider community.

Click here for a further summary of the scientific, legal and political issues underpinning COP 21, or here to return to the contents page. 

4 Responses to Our Task

  1. John F Munro says:

    I have an article in the June 2013 Journal of Environmental Practice that focuses on the political barriers to the success of international agreements on climate change. I believe that the Paris Treaty will not succeed due to a variety of structural factors.

    John Munro

  2. Professor Niranjanie Ratnayake says:

    I am very happy young people are getting involved in climate change mitigation activities. Still people think that things will get better without even lifting a finger to do something themselves. Please make a hue and cry, so that parents will have to listen to their children, not vice-versa.

  3. John Foran says:

    I applaud this initiative! As a climate justice scholar-activist who strongly believes that the biggest social force for a just treaty will be in large measure the work of younger Earth citizens, it seems to me that this is one of many hopeful steps forward that we are seeing these days.
    With other climate activists in Santa Barbara, California, we have formed the Climate Justice Project to bring some of these voices and new ideas into the discussion.
    You can see this work and download our free book, At the COP: Global Climate Justice Youth Speak Out, at: http://www.climatejusticeproject.com

    with gratitude,
    John Foran

  4. ap says:

    USA is a country that has convinced its citizens and maybe even others in the world that it is a country of ‘manifest destiny’ –and hence special and unique , other than most other countries of the world. Hence they are committed to their lifestyle values as though they deserve them –as a ‘manifest given’.

    Other countries of the world are just –well countries of earth. USA regards itself as special and strives to remain so. All presidents of USA have subscribed to that ‘mis’ (?) perception. The country consists of immigrants who supplanted the native populations over a few centuries. Becoming free of colonising european nations, it enslaved africans and hired others to eventually create their USA of today.

    European countries competed in world trade and made empires, fought destructive wars and had to give up their colonies, learned their lessons and made a European union. Liberty based capitalism and equality based socialism competed in twentieth century while fraternity based cooperative development has made a slow start , increasingly more relevant in this century.

    As a residue of historic changes the world is seen as divided into ‘developed ‘ and ‘developing’ countries. There are differentials of all sorts among nations; it is really one world now. Such divisiveness is an obsolete concept. Practiced by those who view in every issue; ‘haves’ and ‘have nots”. That is already a potential source for conflicts into the 21st century. Paris talks should have changed the mindset into making one humanity on earth working together to face the weather impacts of climate change.

    So many commitments to fossil fuels are already made that to back track on them will become unrealistic, unless alternatives are found and regulations are imposed. There is no escaping a two degree rise (from pre industrial times) by 2050 and a three degree rise by 2100.

    However the actual variations are much larger locally and regionally, than what the globally averaged , aggregated number 1.5 degrees indicates. The extreme weather impacts on people are experienced locally and regionally. And this has escaped analysis made by IPCC and other agencies inputs to COP 21. That is what will decide the future of the world. Conflict, competition, cooperation, collapse –what will it be ?!

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