From November 30 to December 11, leaders and negotiators from 195 countries are meeting in Paris to reach a deal on global carbon emissions and rising global temperatures. The meeting is officially known as the United Nations Paris Climate Change Conference and the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties, or COP21 for short. The Conference of the Parties is an annual U.N.-supervised global meeting that has taken place since 1995 and is dedicated to reducing the effects of climate change. COP21 is one of the largest conferences organized yet, meeting with the goal of creating the first legally binding global climate agreement. Past climate change agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen Accord, either focused mainly on curbing carbon emissions or introduced measures that did not reach unanimous global approval. The nations meeting in COP21 aim to change this with a new agreement.
One of the main goals of COP21 is to decide upon measures that would keep global temperatures from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius above temperatures of pre-industrial times. Global temperatures have already increased by 1 degree Celsius since 1880, and scientists are warning of disastrous consequences should they rise even further. In fact, several scientists and smaller countries are calling for a stricter limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. However, based on the desires of the larger nations, the conference will most likely agree on a 2 degree Celsius limit. Other goals of the current conference include figuring out differences between limits imposed on developed and developing countries. One of the agreements created at the COP20 conference in Peru last year stated that the standards for cutting emissions would be considerably less for developing nations. The goal now is for richer nations to decide how to allocate these emissions restrictions in a fair manner; many developing nations argue that richer nations should take on heavier restrictions, since larger countries are generally responsible for greater amounts of emissions. In addition to this, larger nations also need to decide how to follow up on their agreement from the Copenhagen Accord, part of which states that richer countries would provide poor countries with $100 billion a year from 2020 onward to help develop technology and reduce carbon emissions.
If all of the nations represented at COP21 wish to reach a final agreement to dictate future measures on climate change, there are many issues that they will need to tackle. Poorer nations will need to be strongly considered, a definitive limit on temperatures and carbon emissions needs to be decided, and whatever additional measures are taken will need to be agreed on by every nation in attendance. It is a daunting yet essential task, and the world will be nervously anticipating a final solution.