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Paris Climate Accord
The agreements made at the UNFCCC event in Paris, COP 21, held from Nov. 30-Dec.12, 2015 went into effect November 4, 2016. (UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and COP is Conference of the Parties). All of the 197 member nations to the UNFCCC have signed and formally recognize the Paris Climate Accord (except that the United States under President Trump has announced that the US intends to leave the Paris Climate Accord - but the US can't officially leave the COP 21 agreement until 2021).
[Note: this essay was written when Donald Trump was still the POTUS. Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the new United States President and Vice President; and Democrats are in charge of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the United States will rejoin the international community focused on climate action. First and foremost, this means rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. The United States government is also poised to invest substantially in clean energy infrastructure, clean energy job development, environmental protections, and in many other significant sustainable climate, energy, environmental, and economic/job growth US sectors.]
All 197 countries converged in Paris at COP 21 to try and crystallize the extensive level of work done by previous UNFCCC's COPs.. And as more and more information comes out as to the catastrophic effects of climate change, and how close humanity is to all-too-real consequences of global warming; this 2015 meeting, including the decisions made and the ideas discussed, will have a dramatic impact on the future on Earth.
World leaders gather every year for the United Nations Framework Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) to assess progress in dealing with climate change and negotiate protocols and treaties between countries to further address the plethora of issues. This includes plans for sustainability, funding and implementing renewable energy sources, and updating urban planning ideas and guidelines with energy efficiency and green building in mind; all of which is intended to meet the goal of dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
On the 12th of December, 2015, high-level representatives from 197 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures at the Paris COP 21. On April 22, 2016, at the UN in NYC, the agreement took full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions signed the agreement). Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the agreement in Paris is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7°C by the end of the century.
for an update on how good signatories to the Paris Climate Accord, such as European nations, are doing as far as striving towards achieving critical climate targets set in Paris.
Breakthrough Energy Coalition
The best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (b-t.energy). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is a group, led by Bill Gates, of more than 20 billionaires (including Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook) who have agreed to invest in innovative clean energy. The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date - the Mission Innovation coalition agreement made at the Paris Climate Accord. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries, and the EU, including India, Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea, who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from the Coalition, the importance of both groups is highlighted –
“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.” - b-t.energy
High Ambition Coalition
The high ambition coalition are a group of countries, including several of the “Mission Innovation” countries and a group of the most vulnerable (developing nations, and island nation-states), that are looking towards a more ambitious goal of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Brazil was one of the last countries to join the ‘high ambition coalition’; while China and India were initially holdouts to this section of the Paris Climate Accord. China and India are the major emitters in the developing world, and were the last agree to the main pact, but not the high ambition goal, at COP21. The premise of the high ambition coalition is that richer nation achieved development of their nations, economies, and societies predominantly through mass production and consumption of goods afforded by the combustion of fossil fuels - generating a disproportionately high amount of GHGs - and therefore, it is the developed nations that are mostly responsible for global warming. Developing nations, in lower socioeconomic regions of the world, should not have to shoulder as much of a burden for GHG reduction/ climate mitigation investment as richer nation. Simultaneously, as many developing nations are also the most vulnerable nations to the effects of anthropogenic climate change, the ambition needs to be set to a level which will protect the planet from global warming; limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C provides more assurance of planetary health, and safety for vulnerable nations, than 2°.
This topic has been extensively documented, as seen here in Inside Climate News, and here in The Guardian; less developed countries who historically have not exploited fossil fuels as much as wealthier countries are less responsible for having exacerbated global warming. It is countries like the United States with historical responsibility for having increased the pace of climate change with careless production and consumption of fossil fuels, emitting greenhouse gases at an exponentially higher rate than less developed nations. Therefore, it needs to be primarily the responsibility of richer nations to set a more ambitious goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, and to have more ambitious GHG reduction targets.
Below are some resources for more information on the COP21 Paris Climate Accord:
COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event and key sustainability initiatives-