Can the COP 21 summit deliver the final victory in a long process?

Can the COP 21 summit deliver the final victory in a long process?

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For the past ten days world leaders have consumed copious amounts of caffeine, expended many syllables and debated through the night in an attempt to finally achieve the goal of a twenty year process. To produce an all-encompassing climate agreement to avoid the scenarios if we do not check current greenhouse gas emissions. The road that has led to the COP21 summit in Paris has promised many lofty goals which have ultimately not succeeded.  With the outcome of the conference expected soon it can act as a figurehead for action to unify global and local efforts to achieve real and lasting change.

kyoto agreementThe starting point in the process leading the COP21 can be seen as The Kyoto agreement signed in 1997. The Agreement aimed to limit the global emissions of countries in order to swerve from the carbon intensive course on which the world was heading. It had promising goals but was plagued by the fact that the US did not sign up to this agreement and Russia joined the party later than a star of sweet sixteen which meant that the agreement failed to deliver its ultimate goals. The agreement also failed to unite global action as Emerging economies, such as China and Mexico, were not included in the emissions targets.

In the following years agreements were put in place and finally ended up with the Copenhagen conference in 2009. This conference agreed Greenhouse gas emission reduction targets but these were not enough to meet the scientific advice of avoiding more than 2C of warming. The Copenhagen conference was also criticised for failing to produce a legally binding treaty to which all countries could finally agree.

And now here we are, the eyes of the world are locked on Paris waiting for what those entrusted with planning the next steps forward will present.

2c thresholdThe main focus of the conference has been around the avoidance of crossing the 2C threshold of warming and greenhouse gas emission limits and caps necessary to do this. While there has been agreement that the summit is heading in the right direction there has been vocal dismay at the omission of aviation and shipping from the emissions targets. For a sector that is accountable for over 5 per cent of global emissions this seems like a large omission. This represents the challenges that large summits will always have: in order to please all interests compromises will have to be made and the ambitious targets may not always be kept through to the final documents.

The summit can act as a sign that the world stage has embraced the need for collective action to face a global challenge. The COP21 summit has placed emphasis on the role that developed and developing nations have to play in the cause of global emission reductions. This is a change of course from what has been seen as developing countries criticising the resource usage of developing countries and instead treats all countries as part of a system where different roles within that system present different challenges.

no planet BThe interlinking web of fighting climate change extends beyond developing and developed nations and extends to non-state actors such as, cities, local governments, charities and Non-governmental organisations. The French government have announced that supermarkets will be expected to give food away rather than send it to landfill as this process releases GHG emissions. The utilisation of this more local web can provide real action on climate change guided by the decisions made in Paris. The Lima-Paris Action Agenda has brought together 2,255 cities, 2,025 companies and 424 investors to make real advances in emissions reductions. In securing action at more local levels change can be made quickly and with more direct impacts. In order to utilise these local level networks monitoring and evaluation will become crucial in the years after COP21 to ensure that we are on target.

This will ultimately be the success of the COP21 summit. By becoming a focal point for the debate around climate change and ways to mitigate environmental disaster the world leaders need to engage the global community.  From cooperation amongst developed and developing nations to non-state actors such as cities, local government, NGOs and charities. By providing a framework and a global aspiration to work together the COP21 can represent more than high level negotiations.