Northwest Horizons

World leaders meet for UN climate talks in Paris

Bassam Bikdash, Science and Technology Editor

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Held every year since 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has once again entered session from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015 to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

Leaders of 150 nations, along with over 40,000 delegates from 195 nations, are currently attending the conference, called the COP21 (Conference of Parties). The conference is being held just weeks after a series of terrorist attacks that took place in central Paris, so security has been tightened accordingly.

“[The climate conference] is a good start but I don’t anything is really going to come out of it,” senior Jorge Capote said.

Above all, the leaders want to achieve an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (which contribute to the warming effect of the Earth’s atmosphere) to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius above what the global average temperature was before the industrial era, called the 2C plan.

According to a news report by The Guardian, “The world’s biggest climate polluters rallied around a stronger target for limiting warming on Monday, saying they were open to the 1.5C goal endorsed by the most vulnerable countries.”

China, which is currently the top emitter of carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas), said it was supporting a 1.5C target and for rich countries to accept the principle that they are responsible for long term and irreversible damage done by climate change.

After hammering out a first draft agreement during the first week of negotiations there are still, however, a variety of issues that are in hot debate among the delegates of the conference. For example, representatives from small island states, especially those in the Pacific, say that the current goal of trying to maintain a two degree increase in temperature from preindustrial times would bring doom, drowning low-lying areas, and forcing mass migration.

The most pressing issue among delegates is the question of finance. The question involves how much rich countries should pay poorer countries to develop cleaner sources of energy.

In a National Public Radio interview, special envoy from the World Bank Rachel Kyte said, “All the economics show that to wait and to delay will cost you more. So we really need to help countries that are maybe having, you know, huge development needs to get them to grow cleanly more quickly. And so I think developed countries are very sympathetic to that, and that’s going to happen through private investment.”

Talk at the conference tended to center around the 2009 commitment from developed countries saying they would send $100 billion to the developing world by 2020 to support initiatives to address climate change. According to NPR, more than half of the $100 billion has made its way to poorer countries.

Recently, the United States has just made a push for the implementation of a robust system for developing countries to report transparently on their carbon emissions and the progress made toward reducing them.

Any agreements made at the conference however have to be ratified by a U.S. Congress dominated by Republicans who are resistant to acting on climate change.

Only time will tell whether a meaningful agreement can be passed to maximize the effort against climate change.

As David Cameron, Prime Minister of England, said in an introductory speech, “What would we tell our children if we fail?”

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World leaders meet for UN climate talks in Paris