Background to the Conference
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, commonly known as COP 21, was a conference held in Paris, France from November 30 to December 11, 2015. The conference was the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was first held in Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The aim of the conference is to control climate change by stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. Currently, the UNFCCC has 195 members. The conference led to the negotiation of the Paris Agreement that was later adopted and ratified by 174 countries in 2016. The conference also served as the 11th session of the Kyoto protocol that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed countries and transition economies.
Negotiating the Treaty
The ultimate goal of the convention was to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases which would result in no more than a 2 °C (3.6 °F) rise in the global temperature above the pre-industrial levels. Before the COP21, the conventions required countries to outline the measures they would take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by October 1, 2015. These measures, also referred to as the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), would result in the decline of global warming from an estimated 5 °C to 2.7°C at the beginning of the 22nd century. To achieve this goal, the US and China were relied on heavily because they are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases.
Goals and Objectives Set
The principle objective of the 2015 convention in Paris was to formulate a binding universal agreement on reducing the emission of greenhouse gas; the first time countries had chosen to do so in 20 years. The formulation of the accord had been advocated for by several parties including Pope Francis who published Laudato si’, and the International Trade Union Confederation who had linked the increase in poverty to global warming. Part of the objective involved reviewing the implementation of the previous conventions including the COP3 (where the Kyoto protocol had been adopted) and COP17 (that gave rise to the Green Climate Fund, GCF.)
Key Players Involved
195 nations and the European Union attended the conference, with France not only playing the host but also serving as a model country. France took the lead role because of its ability to produce decarbonized electricity while still maintaining a high standard of living. 150 presidents and prime ministers attended the session as well as state governors, mayors, and thousands of delegates. The two largest emitters, China and the United States, were called upon to reduce their emission of greenhouse gases.
Although the conference was aimed at controlling global warming, it was not without controversies. Some of the leading scientists claimed that it offered false hope that was dangerously inadequate. The scientists claim that the measures agreed upon were too weak and did not do enough to prevent the emission of greenhouse gases. Developed nations also presented their disappointment over a financial plan that would see the developed countries compensate the developing countries which were affected by global warming.