In December, Paris will host COP 21, the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will serve as a forum for international leaders to discuss issues related to climate with the ultimate goal of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. The event is expected to attract 40,000 delegates, policymakers, and activists.
The main focus of COP 21 will be the establishment of a legally binding agreement to hold participating countries accountable for making efforts to reduce carbon emissions. While COP 21 organizers hope to finalize an agreement during the conference, full implementation and enforcement is not expected until 2020.
According to statistics provided by the United Kingdom’s Committee on Climate Change, the amount of global carbon emissions must reach its peak by 2020 and be halved by 2050 in order to meet and maintain the global warming goal of less than 2 degrees Celsius. The United Kingdom has itself pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 in comparison with its emission levels from 1990.
The success of COP 21 will rely on similar accountability on the part of participating countries. The U.N. has set an October 1st deadline for registration, a process that requires each nation to present their concrete efforts to combat climate change. The national reports will be published prior to COP 21 in preparation for collaborative discussions in November.
Key world powers including the United States, China, and the European Union are among the 54 countries that have secured their attendance at COP 21. The currently registered nations account for approximately 56 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. Other significant contributors including India, Brazil, Australia, and Japan are expected to confirm their participation in the coming months.
Additionally, emphasis will be placed on securing financial commitments from participating countries to support global sustainability efforts. Previous discussions indicated an estimated US $100 billion combined contribution by 2020. Climate budgets from each participating country will ultimately be based on voluntary donations of funds. Significant financial assistance is also expected from the private sector.
In an attempt to expand the climate discussion beyond official diplomatic negotiations, France has prioritized greater public accessibility to COP 21. Organizations including NGOs and various businesses will be authorized to display products and information within a COP 21“village” environment. French officials hope to encourage open global discussion through the inclusion of a wide variety of environmental advocates.
“I have chosen three words [to describe COP 21],” explained Annick Girardin, French minister of State for Development and Francophony: “Development, adaptation, and energy.”