by Whitner Chase, Humanitas Global
This November, the world’s leaders will gather in Paris for the 21st meeting of the UNFCC Conference of Parties (COP21), what might be “the last effective opportunity” to collaborate on climate action at a global scale before more drastic consequences of climate change take effect. Environmental advocates hope that a new international agreement will be reached at the conference, targeting an end to global warming past 2° Celsius. In order to make a deal, however, nations must be prepared with proposals for collaboration, and also with plans for their individual commitments.
When the media says that COP21 is the last chance for climate action, we don’t mean it literally: globally-scaled climate consequences don’t manifest over such a short time span, except after a meteor impact or volcanic cataclysm. What we mean is that COP21 is our best chance at creating meaningful change, and the need for it is time-sensitive. Each passing year brings new scientific evidence of human-caused climate change, but for the first time in a long while, the political arena seems primed to take action. Progress abounds: Pope Francis set the Catholic Church into motion with “Laudato Si,” and China, Brazil, and the U.S. have all taken unprecedented action in the past few months to regulate emissions and increase renewables. Their timing is impeccable: the COP meets every year, but the 2014 meeting in Lima resulted in a call for a new protocol, one which “shall address in a balanced manner, inter alia, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and capacity-building, and transparency of action and support” with regards to climate issues (pg. 2 in this link to the Lima Call for Climate Action). Many stars are aligning to make a renewed global effort in climate action a reality.
To prepare for COP21, all parties must submit an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC). According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), an ideal INDC “will signal to the world that the country is doing its part to combat climate change and limit future climate risks.” It should be “ambitious…transparent…and equitable.” When a nation submits its INDC, they are ready to make personal commitments to climate action, and willing to join the rest of the world in a collaborative effort for the same.
As of July 6, 43 countries have submitted an INDC. In other words, 43 of 196 UNFCCC members (22%) are prepared to commit to unprecedented climate action, with the meeting just 4 short months away. China, the United States, and members of the European Union have all submitted their INDCs, demonstrating appropriate leadership as owners of the world’s largest economies (and some of the worst climate offenders). The EU has pledged to begin a “climate financing” strategy, donating $100 billion per year starting in 2020 to mitigate climate change, and they plan to cut their emissions by at least 40%. China will also reduce its emissions 40-45% by 2020. The U.S. is less ambitious, pledging by 2025 to “make its best efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.”
Many experts believe that adoption of a new, ambitious protocol at COP21 is likely. However, as gridlocks between the Global North and South presented the largest obstacles during the Kyoto Protocol, it is imperative that both sides have prepared well for the upcoming negotiations, and are willing to make concessions to strike a deal. Early INDC submissions are indicators of such preparation. Will the world be ready for COP21? Environmentalists everywhere have their fingers crossed.