What is COP 21?

Been hearing about the term COP 21 lately? Get your explanation here from two of our experts who are part of the Malaysian Youth Delegation Team, Chuah Ee Chia and FK Bella Septiarani.

COP 21 — 21st Conference of Parties

by Chuah Ee Chia (MYD15)

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Photocredit: www.sumforest.org

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)  holds a yearly conference called the United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conferences of the Parties (COP) (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 2014).  It is a global response to find solutions to limit the rising global temperature due to climate change, since 1992 by all its 195 member countries (ibid). The consensus agreement lies in the need to reduce carbon emissions by all countries (ibid). However, despite the early efforts to mitigate the climate change, the UNFCCC member countries have yet to agree on a concrete action. As a result, the global climate change crisis continues to worsen.

The threat of climate change is severe, widespread and may have irreversible impact, concludes the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2014 report. IPCC 2014 is a scientific report, released after successful negotiation by the world’s governments. The first IPCC report released seven years ago stated that it is economically affordable to tackle climate change, the carbon emissions ultimately need to fall to zero and stopping global warming will reduce global poverty (ibid). Despite that, carbon emissions continue to be on the rise.

Tuvalu, the low-lying island in the Pacific Ocean, is at risk of being swept away if the seawater continues to rise due to global warming (Reuters, 2014). Well, Tuvalu is not alone; other Pacific Islands like Kiribati and Cook Island are also facing similar fate. The world is witnessing the first climate change refugees as some Tuvaluans prepare to flee their country, possibly being displaced, separated from their community and lost their culture and 4000 year old way of life (ibid). If the ocean continues to rise at the current rate, the island will disappear within the next 30-50 years (ibid). The possibility of a whole nation like Tuvalu being wiped off the map shows how grave the climate change’s threat has become.

Five years ago at the 15th United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP15,  Ian Fry, the Tuvaluan delegate made an impassioned plea for the international community to save his country (Taylor 2009). The plea, codified as the “Tuvalu Protocol”, was aimed to legally bind the developed and developing countries to reduce the carbon emission to curb climate change (Vidal 2009). However, the negotiation was suspended as it was opposed by China, India and Saudi Arabia due to economic reasons (ibid). Consequently, no agreement was achieved. Five years later, in the COP20 in Lima last December, UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon told the governments that there was no “time for tinkering” but a time transformation (Reuter 2014). Urgent actions are needed to limit global warming to an internationally ceiling of 2 Celsius above pre-industrial times to reduce its negative impacts like floods, droughts, desertification and rising sea levels (ibid). The Kyoto Protocol may finally see the light after 11 years since its inception and 21 years of carbon emission negotiation at every COP. The next UNFCCC or COP 21 in Paris may finally see a legally binding and universal agreement from all UN members (France Diplomatie 2013). Hopefully, when the days come, the much-anticipated COP 21 will be able to meet the expectation to transit the world into a low-carbon societies and economies by mitigating the climate change.

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Why have COP21?

By FK Bella Septiarani (MYD15)

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Photo credit: wwf.panda.org

This year, France will be hosting and presiding the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21/CMP11) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), otherwise known as “Paris 2015” from November 30th to December 11th . This will bring together approximately 40,000 participants including delegates representing each country, observers, and civil society members. The objective the conference is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

The Conference of the Parties (COP), made up of all “States Parties”, is the Convention’s supreme decision-making body meets every year in a global session where decisions are made to meet goals for combating climate change. Decisions can only be made unanimously by the States Parties or by consensus. The COP held in Paris will be the 21st, hence the name “COP21”. This is a crucial time as COP21 has set to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries. This is with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. It is the largest diplomatic event ever hosted by France and one of the largest climate conferences ever organized.

The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. In order to achieve this, the future agreement must focus equally on mitigation – that is, efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to below 2°C – and societies’ adaptation to existing climate changes. These efforts must take into account the needs and capabilities of each country. The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will need to be sustainable to enable long-term change.

In addition, each country must publish its national contribution, present its national efforts, as soon as possible and before COP21. This exercise is a new development in international climate negotiations that France has undertaken to help certain countries in difficulty to prepare their contribution. With this,  each and every country one can present a national contribution to the global effort against climate change that corresponds to its situation. Shortly before COP21, the UNFCCC secretariat will publish a summary of these contributions and give an indication of the cumulative impact of all these efforts.

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Photo credit: http://www.c2es.org/

Another key objective of the COP21 is the mobilization of $100 billion per year by developed countries, from public and private sources, beginning year 2020. This commitment, made in Copenhagen, should enable developing countries to combat climate change whilst promoting fair and sustainable development. Some of these funds will pass through the Green Climate Fund, which previously received an initial capital of $10.2 billion, including almost $1 billion from France. More generally, COP21 needs to guide economic and financial stakeholders towards redirecting their investments in order to launch the transition to become low-carbon economies.

Many initiatives are currently being developed by a range of non-governmental stakeholders: cities, regions, businesses, associations, and so on. This is known as the Agenda of Solutions. Since the New York Climate Summit of September 2014, there has been a growing trend towards concrete action, exchange of best practices and knowledge transfer. These initiatives will supplement States’ commitments, raise awareness of economic and social opportunities, and thus help to strengthen individual ambitions.

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