What is COP 21, and why will it define #OurFuture?

12316315_10153770674129169_3947117815950444653_nToday is the first day of COP21, which is the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or the UNFCCC. This meeting is being held in Paris, France, and over the course of the next two weeks negotiators from over 190 countries will work together to come up with the first universal international climate agreement. Climate agreements have been made in the past, like the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, but there has never been an agreement where all the countries, developed and developing, have to commit to reducing emissions in one way or another. At the end of these next two weeks that will no longer be the case.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 1.00.19 PMThe whole point of these negotiations is to come up with an agreement that will keep the global average temperature below 2 degrees celsius, which is a global tipping point. As President Obama said in his opening speech today, “our progress will be measured by the suffering that is averted and the planet that is preserved.” No truer words have been said.

So how are we going to do that? Negotiators have been working on the Paris Agreement for four years since COP 17 in Durban, South Africa in 2011. After those long and strenuous years we are now racing towards the finish line, and it is time to work out the final details.

The agreement is expected to revisit whether or not we want to have a below 2 degrees celsius on average warming goal or to put the goal at 1.5 degrees celsius so that we have a buffer as a planet; support a long term goal for decarbonization by a certain year (to be determined); suggest methods countries can take for climate action such as mitigation and adaptation projects and policies; deliver means to support implementing those projects and policies such as technology transfer, finance, and capacity building for developing nations; and contain equity language that allows for space for climate justice for many communities that have been unfairly impacted by climate change, which they did not contribute to. Finally, this agreement has been developed in a bottom up approach where all countries have submitted pledges, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that outline how they will reduce their carbon emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate change, and financially support other countries as they work to combat climate change. This has been good because countries can submit what they believe to be politically feasible. However, even with the pledges that we have right now, the planet is expected to warm well over 2 degrees, and so it will be imperative that countries submit more ambitious quickly, and they are not allowed to backslide below what they have already pledged. Therefore, a review process for these INDCs will be in the agreement as well, but the specifics of that process are still up for debate.12289592_10153770674169169_9155730547084079485_n

Clearly there is still a lot to talk about in a short amount of time. Regardless of the outcome of the agreement, this will only be the beginning. It will take local work and domestic action to make the INDCs become a reality, and it will be up to us, global citizens, to go above and beyond to demand action on climate everywhere for our future.

 

Paris 2015 :: A Care About Climate Project

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2015 is an incredibly important year for the world. New Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are being designed and affirmed to replace the Millennium Development Goals, which will give countries new objectives to strive for in order to lift people out of poverty while limiting the impacts on the planet.

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In addition to the SDGs the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is hosting the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP) in Paris, France November 30-December 11th. At this COP nations from around the world will craft and sign a new climate agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol.

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Care About Climate will be at the COP to share the climate symbol, give updates on the negotiations, work with other non-governmental organizations to promote climate action, and to report the actions of people from around the world that are demanding a just and equitable agreement.

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CLICK HERE TO VISIT: CARE ABOUT CLIMATE

 

The Last Stretch and On To Paris

The past two weeks of the Road Trip to Paris have flown by. I am now sitting in Chicago, Illinois, about to take off to Paris. I have personally been working on this for the past four years starting with my first UN Climate Conference in Doha, Qatar in 2012, and the time has finally come for the world to make the first universal climate agreement.

IMG_2506The last stretch of the road trip went through Arizona, and a hop, skip, and a jump to Missouri, and Illinois. In Arizona, we participated in an Act On Climate Arizona event. At this event, we tabled to tell people about the UN Climate Negotiations and the climate symbol as well as helped unveil the “Our Moral Obligation” statement, which connects climate organizations in Arizona to demand leadership from our elected officials to act on climate based on our moral responsibility. Care About Climate is a signatory to this statement. In addition to this event, we presented at the Green Planet Festival at the Phoenix convention center.

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The next stop was Illinois. We partnered with the Chicago Sierra Club chapter as well as the Champaign (Prairie) group to give several presentations around the state to those groups. It was great to learn about the wonderful coalitions they are building to support green jobs while transitioning to clean energy. These passionate folks had meetings all day, and continued to listen to me Saturday and Sunday evening because they care about the issue of climate change so much, and that is dedication.

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We ended in St. Louis, Missouri. I was able to meet with students from Washington University in St. Louis, to learn about the research around capacity building that can be found within the climate negotiations. Capacity building is about trying to support those that need assistance with technology, knowledge, or economic development so that they can ultimately support themselves in mitigating and adapting to climate change. These students are working on monitoring this section of the negotiations, and looking at how the discussion around this issue has transformed over the past several years.

A few days later, the environmental science department at St. Louis University hosted us to talk with students in an informal lunch setting as well as in a seminar later that evening. At the seminar we had climate scientists, students, and social scientists talking about what next week is going to look like and what a successful agreement looks like. I have to say I am optimistic, and I can tell that people want this to work and are excited to see change. So many people all over the planet really care about this, and this year we have seen people from all walks of life and all backgrounds come together and demand action! I can also tell that this is important because I talked to a room full of undergrads on Friday evening, and they were not getting extra credit.

As I board this plane all I can feel is hope. I know that we are no where near the end of this battle, and we have a lot of work to do, but change is in the air and I think we are truly coming together as a global community to tackle many of these issues.

The Green Climate Fund Needs to Happen -and a Funding Solution is Offered

The Green Climate Fund is a fund that helps support mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries. In 2010 countries pledged to provide $100 billion dollars by 2020. Starting today the Green Climate Fund board will start allocating funding to projects around the world according to Reuters UK. This fund is critical to getting resources on the ground to act on climate, but will all the resources be there? Don Bayles tells us more. 

By Don Bayles 
Among the more disturbing aspects of climate change is the amount of havoc done upon the most vulnerable by the most developed. Those in Yemen are now contemplating the reality of eight years’ worth of rain in one monstrous storm. These people have done little, virtually nothing, to contribute to the extraordinary danger they’re facing (as this blog is being written).
The carbon emissions of Yemen are minimal. The United States, however, has contributed approximately 27% of the human generated greenhouse gas inventory within the atmosphere. Per person, no country stands on par with the US. But climate researchers tell us that those within Sub-Sahara Africa and Small Island Land Developing States (SIDS) stand to suffer hugely as climate change impacts grow. For example, those in the Philippines have contributed less than 1 per cent of the carbon in the atmosphere. Yet they will suffer disproportionately as more super typhoons hit their coasts and flood their homes. With this disparity in mind, representatives of the nations at COP 20 in Lima last year concluded that a “green fund” was needed. The fund would be collected among developing nations and distributed among the nations which have the most to lose from climate change. One hundred billion dollars has been identified as a goal. But will the fund actually be collected? And if so when? And who will be funding it? Will there be money for those in need?

President Obama seeks to participate fully in Paris. But given the restraints imposed by a contrary Congress, there are good reasons to doubt whether the United States will be able to set an example for the world by paying its fair share to the fund. And while the President may be able to find a small measure of funding from contingency sources, it is unlikely that a substantial American payment will be available in the absence of congressional approval. And if the USA balks, other developed nations may follow. And what are vulnerable countries to do?

Solutions for meeting the green fund challenge have not been advanced in abundance. A French source recently suggested that without the Green Fund, there can be no agreement. It is expected that representatives from developed nations will bring their most innovative thinkers to the challenge. But there must be an answer and as of today, the substance of that answer remains unclear.

Let’s realize we are all in this together. Are there any available pools of funds? The instinctive answer is no. One suggestion is offered here: Most every developed nation has a defense budget. These financial pools are especially substantial among the Americans, Russians and Chinese. What if we developed nations all collectively agreed to reduce the amount of our defense expenditures by 10 per cent? And at the same time, we could offer the bulk of those savings to those already being hammered by climate change –but who contributed virtually nothing to the formation of the problem. A portion of the ten percent defense savings could also be dedicated to each nation’s establishment of a renewable energy infrastructure. With all respect, doesn’t this make sense?

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Top five countries by military expenditure in 2014.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.[1]

 

The funding could form a viable green fund. (See chart above). No one will be disadvantaged as we are all agreeing to the same proportionate reduction. All will benefit as we mitigate impacts and perhaps also use a part of the ten percent (another 2 percent?) for adaptation investments in renewable energy infrastructure. The establishment of a real green fund would be prioritized, developing nations would gain assistance and infrastructure investment within the global economy would bring jobs and clean energy. With the U.S. working alongside its historical opponents, perhaps something bigger could emerge here. At a time when there has never been a more compelling justification for international cooperation, maybe this is a plan worth considering.