Were The Paris Climate Change (COP 21) Talks Successful?

The governments of more than 190 nations gathered in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement of climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.  Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020, so now a decision has to be made as to what happens for the decade after that.

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Scientists have warned us that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, we will pass the threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible.  This is a problem that every nation needs to address and that is the reason for the Paris talks.  The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) was held in Paris, France in December 2015.  The convenors said that the conference agreed on “an ambitious and effective climate change agreement”, that will set nations on the path to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future that keeps the average global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator AJ Nicholson, says that the outcome of the recent climate change conference in Paris was positive.  Negotiations focused on dividing up responsibility among developed countries for cutting emissions and assigned them each targets.  Those targets were to be enforced through international law.

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The Paris Agreement states that all countries, no just developed ones, are supposed to curb emissions.  Negotiations did not focus on dividing up that responsibility, instead each country developed its own plans based on its national circumstances.  Currently, climate change is contributing to the deaths of 400,000 people per year and its high time something is done about it.  Michael A. Levi, who writes for Newsweek doesn’t believe all the agreements will be met by all the nations.  He feels the agreement is more about political pressure rather than compulsion.  Well-known climate scientist, James Hansen says “as long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.”

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Basically the Paris Agreement prepared each global nation to review their attempts to drive down emissions.  It’s aim was to encourage nations to make stronger efforts over time.  Global negotiations on climate change have been carrying on for more that 20 years, but only in the past few decades have scientists begun the measurements necessary to establish a relationship between carbon levels and temperatures and the results show a constant point in one direction: that rising greenhouse gas emissions, arising from our use of fossil fuels and our industries, lead to higher temperatures.

The real test of the agreement will be seen this year at the UN climate summit in November 2016 in Morocco.  The Paris talks seem like a success in part because, understanding that national politics and policies are a big deal.  The Paris Agreement deserves a pat on the back.  It is a far stronger foundation for international climate cooperation that the Kyoto Protocol ever was and is much more legitimate than the Copenhagen Accord ever managed to be.  If nations can meet and agree on goals for the climate, it will be a triumph for international cooperation, for our well being as a society, and faith for the future.  The hard work of building a new way to save our planet, within each country appears promising.

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