Editor’s note: On Nov 30, government officials and global citizens from around the world gathered in Paris, France, to try to finalize an agreement on addressing the existential threat of global warming. The goals of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, are to craft an international agreement to combat climate change (keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius) and accelerate the transition to low-carbon societies and economies.
This is the fourth of a series of guest blog posts by Gary Payton of Sandpoint, ID, an active ICL member and the 2015 recipient of the Keith and Pat Axline Award for Environmental Activism, ICL’s highest award for activism. Gary traveled to Paris as part of the delegation from the Presbyterian Church (USA), an historic mainline Protestant denomination. While in Paris, Gary will post reflections on the progress, challenges and spirit of COP21.
It’s “crunch time” in Paris!
Critical negotiations regularly face deadlines, brinkmanship and compromise near the end. Whether the subject is the Boulder-White Clouds or a global agreement to combat climate change, the processes are similar. That’s where COP21 is now. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week will reveal how far the world community is willing to go to address the current and future impacts of climate disruption.
News will come fast and furious from multiple organizations. We’ll be reading or listening to critiques from respected news organizations, government leaders, environmental NGOs and informed citizens.
In short form, here are some of the key issues included in an agreement that is modest in form or one that genuinely stretches the nations to deal with the causes, impacts and "solutions" to climate change.
- Temperature cap: In 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen, nations agreed that we needed to keep average global temperature from advancing beyond a 2 degrees Celsius rise over pre-industrial levels. Here in Paris, oceanic states, many African states, and other developing countries have pushed hard that the target should be 1.5 C. These nations are now feeling much of climate change impact and project catastrophic impacts if the target is 2 C. We know the national pledges now on the table, if implemented, can bend the future temperature curve below 3 C. So, 1.5 C implies very aggressive action by all the parties, especially the major emitters, to move below 2 C.
- Financing: The Green Climate Fund channels money from the developed states to the developing states for mitigation and adaption projects. The immediate goal is to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 for projects around the world. Will the annual goal be increased to meet advancing needs? And, within the U.S., how will the fight between Congress and the Obama administration resolve? The president’s 2016 budget, now on the Hill, includes a first installment of $500 million. Domestic politics intrude on a sense of international obligation.
- Net zero greenhouse gas emission by when? As the global community struggles to curb fossil fuel emission and transition to sustainable energy supplies, what should the "over the horizon" goal be? 2050? Well before the end of the century? 2100? Well beyond the lifespan of many reading this post, the goal in the language is important. The number in the agreement signals intention and current commitment.
The next draft of the climate agreement from COP21 will emerge in hours. The final text will wait until Friday or Saturday. I will be following the news here in Paris, even as you follow it from Idaho or beyond.
The agreement will be a milestone, but not a finish line. Whether modest or aggressive in its ambition, you and I in the Idaho Conservation League face personal choices in how lightly we live on the planet and in the actions we take within our government, business, NGO or faith community realms. Our choices, our actions will define the future.
– Gary Payton
Read the most recent draft of the COP21 agreement, released Wednesday afternoon in Paris.
BBC has offered an early assessment of the draft agreement.