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.
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.
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.
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.