It’s almost time for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Say what now? That’s a mouth full. The 21st Conference on Climate Change. Or better yet: COP21. This 21st COP has been in and out of the news for a while now, but what is happening at this conference and why does everyone seem to be on fire about it (pun intended).
Let’s be honest, these high-end conferences come with policies, unpronounceable jargon and protocols, and can be quite boring. Rest assured, these activists & artist will make sure COP21 is anything but boring. But since climate change affects us all, it might be nice to actually know what the conference is about and what the hotshots will be doing in Paris and why it matters. COP21, in a nutshell:
What is COP21?
COP21 is the annual meeting held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The acronym COP stands for Conference Of Parties. Every year the 195 member states of the UNFCCC come together to discuss and monitor how the world is doing when it comes to dealing with global warming and tackling climate change. The first COP ever was held in Berlin in 1995. Meaning, as the name suggests, that this is the 21st year in a row that the ‘coppers’ will meet. Besides monitoring and discussing climate change, the main purpose of these meetings is to set internationally agreed upon targets for reducing greenhouse gases.
When is this Conference?
On the 30th of November until the 11th of December around 100 world leaders and 40,000 delegates will join in Paris for the UN’s 2015 climate summit.
21st? I thought climate change was a relatively new concept.
Not in the slightest. Climate has been changing for as long as the earth has been flying through space. Scientists have figured out how to determine past climates by analyzing the different layers of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets. The oldest, or deepest, ice, they have discovered has an estimated age of 800,000 years. How cool is that! By analyzing the different types and amounts of particles in the ice, they can determine the air quality at that time. By doing this, scientists have been able to visualize climate changes going back as far as 650,000 years ago. The reason why scientists, politicians and world leaders seem to be on high climate alert all of the sudden? They have been for a while. But as the movie said.. It was an inconvenient problem.
Want to know more about this ‘time traveling’ through ice. Check out Ice and the Sky.
What is climate change and why all the fuzz?
If there have been so many meetings. Why is this the first time I hear about it?
Several reasons probably. But, most likely a mix of public willingness and awareness and pure urgency. You might remember that many people believed that climate change was one big hoax not too long ago. Of course, some people still have their heads stuck in the sand (or ice). But fortunately, most people have come to their senses and the public willingness has resulted in more politicians being able and willing to do something.
Who are the big shots of the conference?
Basically, all 193 member states are worth keeping an eye on. Every country will bring it’s own climate change prevention plan to the table. They will present and discuss it which will eventually (hopefully) lead to a Universal Climate Agreement. It might be worth checking out what your countries plan is and how you can join in. But, if we would have to choose who the main actors are. I would say, go for the top 3 polluters. Being China, the United States and the EU. Together, these giants are responsible for around 50% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions. If those three actors could come up with good action plans and agreements, they could make a big impact. So if you want to keep a selective eye on the COP21. Keep it on them. If you want to keep it a little closer to home, check out the Compact of Mayors initiative. Cities from all over the world have joined this initiative. It’s a way of sharing their climate action plans and keeping each other and their citizens up to date on the progress. So look up your city, and see what you can do.
What’s up with the number 2?
The number 2 is probably the most important number of all when it comes to climate change.
Humans never have lived on a planet that’s 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) warmer than it was before we started burning fossil fuels, in the late 1800s, and climate experts say we risk fundamentally changing life on this planet if we do cross that 2-degree mark. (Sutter, J. (2014, 24 April). Climate Change: 7 questions on 2 degrees)
2 degrees sounds like a minor change but scientists believe that big things can and will change if we pass the big 2. Just to give you an idea, wildfires in the US are expected to increase 400% to 800% in size. Scientists estimate that a 2°C to 3°C temperature rise will result in the disappearance of 20-30% of the Earth’s species. Not to mention the continuing meltdown of the Arctic regions, resulting in massive floods in some regions and giant droughts in others. Not only will we see the world change drastically and lose many great species. It will also result in a dramatic increase in environmental refugees.
According to NASA, the global average temperature has increased about 1.4 degrees between 1880 and 2014.
Enough about these big shots and numbers. Can I do something?
Of course you can! Many people think that climate change is too big of a challenge to face as an individual. And yes, it’s true that global changes have to be made if we really want to address this problem. But hey.. I’ve got a news flash. There are about 7.13 billion individuals on this word (thank you Siri), who can all make a contribution in one way or another. We all know the, change your light bulbs, save water, buy green energy and buy a non-thirsty car, actions. But let’s look beyond those. Wouldn’t is be great and easiest if you could make an impact by doing the things you are already doing? Think about how much money you spend every year on food, clothing etctera. What if you would only spend this money on companies that produce their products ethically and clean. I know it sounds difficult and truth be told, it is almost impossible to do. But if everyone would take a few products they use on a daily basis and replace them with clean products. That would make a difference. Now, don’t go crazy by throwing all your old stuff out just to go on a ‘clean’ shopping spree. That wouldn’t be very environmentally friendly, now would it. Buy an eco-friendly laptop or ‘green’ toilet paper. How do you find out what is green? Tadaa!