A CRASH-COURSE ON COP21

COP21 What happens at the climate change conference in Paris, why is it important, what does it mean and why now? Find out everything you need to know about the UN climate change conference in Paris, COP21.

The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to implement the objectives of the UN’s Climate Change Convention’ (UNFCCC) which sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic [human-induced] interference with the climate system.”

The UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which entered into force on 21 March 1994,now has a universal membership of 195 countries.

When was the first COP held?
The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995. The Climate Change Conferences in Warsaw , Poland, in 2013 and Lima , Peru, in 2014 enabled essential progress towards COP21 in Paris under the so-called Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. All the 195 states have been invited to, in good advance of the COP21 summit, submit their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) including targets to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

What kind of pledges do the INDCs contain?
On 1 October which was the deadline, 146 countries had submitted their proposals. The EU's contribution to the new agreement will be a binding, economy-wide, domestic greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 40% by 2030 (relative to 1990).

According to studies, the global trajectory of GHG emissions mapped out by the so-far published contributions would lead to a temperature increase of approximately 2.7 to 3°C at the end of the century. Hence, the pledges seem to fall short of meeting the overall objective of limiting global warming to 2 °C.

Therefore one of the ideas presented for the Paris conference will be to set up a dynamic climate agreement with a periodic review mechanism, in order to raise everyone’s ambitions and gradually improve the collective GHG emission trajectory over time.

What does the current trajectory look like?
Under current global emissions trends, and without the INDCs now tabled, the rise in average global temperature is expected to increase to between 3.7°C and 4.8°C by 2100.

What will happen if global warming isn’t limited to 2°C above pre-industrial levels?
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the number of extreme climate events. At COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009, the countries stated their determination to limit global warming to 2°C. This implies that carbon dioxide emissions need to be cut by 60 per cent by 2050 compared to 2010. In the negotiations there are also discussions about raising the ambition to 1.5 °C.

The conference in Paris from 30 November to 11 December is expected to attract close to 40,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society. The French government has allocated a EUR 170 million budget for the organization and preparation of COP21.

When will a climate agreement reached in Paris, be implemented?
The targets which are now discussed are supposed to take effect from 2020. However, the COP21 negotiations are also dealing with the issue of how to promote necessary pre-2020 actions.

Which are the greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol?

Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases (PFC, HFC, SF6), nitrogen trifluoride. The greenhouse gas emissions covered by the Kyoto Protocol have increased by 80% since 1970 and 30% since 1990, totalling 49 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2010.

Global greenhouse gas emissions by economic sectors
Energy production (35%), industrial production (18%), agriculture (14%), transport (14%), deforestation (10%), waste and water treatment (6%), construction (6%)

Information about COP21 and Vattenfall at COP21 and the Sustainable Innovation Forum

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