The UN Climate Conference in Paris (also known as COP21) got underway this Monday in the presence of Heads of States and negotiators from 195 nations!
They will seek to reach a deal within the next two weeks to reduce global carbon emissions and limit global warming to 2C (3.6F).
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the importance of the conference stating that “A political moment like this may not come again.” Pointing the chance of achieving a bold transition away from a carbon intensive economy, he added that “We have never faced such a test. But neither have we encountered such great opportunity.”
The talks began with a moment of silence for victims of the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, and the tragedy served as a common ground for world leaders urging unity and action.
“What greater rejection of those who would tear down our world than marshaling our best efforts to save it,” President Barack Obama said in his speech.
French President Francois Hollande noted that “never have the stakes been so high because this is about the future of the planet, the future of life.”
The US has been proactively engaging in bilateral meeting with China, to reach joint commitments given their joint responsibility as the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The US seeks to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the conference “is not a finish line, but a new starting point” and that any agreement must take into account the differences among nations. The country has launched a national cap-and-trade program, gotten serious about tracking and reporting carbon emissions and, most importantly, committed to peaking carbon emissions by 2030.
The US is also discussing with small island states like the Dominican Republic issue of how to rebuild after severe and unavoidable loss and damage caused by climate change. Finding common ground on this issue would build trust between developed nations and the world’s most vulnerable countries.
In March, the Dominican Republic became the 57th state to make COP21 climate pledge to the UN. The Dominican Republic submitted its new climate action plan pledging to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below from 2010 levels by 2030.
A strong agreement will lead to a series of positive developments:
- China has committed to a cap-and-trade program and said it will peak its emissions by 2030.
- India will increase its forest cover (The loss of forests accounts for at least 12% of carbon emissions caused by human activity, the second biggest source after burning fossil fuels).
- The U.S. will phase out coal power plants.
Done right, a climate deal will provide the framework to lock some of those commitments into place and push new efforts towards a more sustainable and carbon neutral world.