Story Of The Week

ROAD TO PARIS: UN Climate Change Conference 2015

World over, scientists have been warning that the greenhouse gas emissions are rising to an irreversible extent of 2°C and that with the current emission levels we could well pass even the 5°C threshold. In the wake of the alarming situation, there have been many efforts in the form of agreements and treaties signed between the nations to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions for the past 20 years. Starting from 1992 RIO DE JANERIO summit where UNFCCC (International environment treaty) was forged, to the COP21 being held at Paris.

COP21 Paris (France) Sustainable Innovation Forum 2015 is being held from 30th November to 11th December. The governments of more than 190 nations (called the COP) have gathered in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, the talks are aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.

What is COP: A COP (conference of parties) is the governing body of an international convention. There are various conventions under COP including the UNFCCC (United Nations framework convention on climate change).

What is the framework for COP21?

There has been a significant groundwork done before COP21 to lay the framework for the climate talks. All the member nations have brought emissions pledges based on their individual circumstances which will reflects their road map towards achieving their respective emission control targets. The pledges are called Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)

As a part of these pledges, The European Union which accounts for 10% of emissions worldwide, set the early target of a 20% reduction by 2020 it has also committed to cut the emissions by 40%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030. The US has agreed to a cut of 26% to 28%, compared with 2005 levels, by 2025 while china has committed to peak its emission by 2030.It is an important development for the progress of climate talks, as US and CHINA have a combined share of 44% in global emissions ,but a far cry from the target emission cut. Analysis of these targets, by Grantham Research Institute- part of LSE (London School of Economics) suggests that INDCs fall short of meeting 2°C target. Thus it is expected the climate talks will continue even after the Paris Conference for a better outcome.

Objectives of COP21

  • To reach a legal agreement that covers both developed and developing nations.
  • Consolidate efforts to reducegreenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as pledged by individual countries for the next 10 to 15 years, in order to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century
  • Mobilize financial resources from developed countries to help the least developed countries make the transition and adapt to the effect of climate change.

Bone of contention: There are two major obstacles to the Paris deal:

1) Agreement’s legal form:  International treaties and protocols are legally binding and require ratification to be in force, while COP decisions have some legal force but are not binding in the same way. Thus, the overall Paris agreement may therefore be legally binding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean each country’s emissions target is legally binding.

In this context, china voiced its opinion that it wants the agreement to be a “legally binding agreement implementing the Convention,” which could take the form of a core agreement plus later decisions by the COP but neither America nor Japan contain any such language about legal form for Paris agreement.

2) Finance- Rich nations have committed to provide fund of $30bn initially and a further financial assistance of $100bn (Green Climate Fund) by 2020 to the poor nations. Poor nations also want a similar provision in place beyond 2020, but there is strong disagreement over how this should be done. Some want all the money to come from rich country governments, but those governments are adamant that they will not provide such funding solely from the public purse. They want international development banks, such as the World Bank, to play a role, and they want most of the funding to come from the private sector.


For any government it is hard to get tough on emissions when their trading partners are not following the suit. Thus, it is important for all nations to move in tandem towards achieving their respective climate goals. For this reason, COP21 matters, because it has the power to accelerate an existing long-term trend towards de- carbonization.





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