On Monday 30 November, the countries of the world will gather in Paris to try to agree on a new, global climate agreement within two weeks. The prelude to the meeting is not the best given the terrorist attacks in the same city in recent times. The meeting is the twenty-first in a series of annual climate summits . In those years, world emissions of the greenhouse gas CO 2 have increased by about 50%. According to Einstein, madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- Will climate negotiators succeed better this time?
- What are the big questions for the Paris Summit?
- Which countries have which responsibility?
- How much does it mean to reach an agreement in Paris?
2: Climate challenges
In just over a hundred years, the average temperature on the planet has increased by 0.85 degrees . According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is extremely likely that human activity is the main cause of this warming. It is mainly through CO 2 emissions when we burn coal, oil and gas (fossil fuels) that we contribute to warming, and our contribution is constantly increasing. World emissions of greenhouse gases have increased by about one thousand million tonnes every year in the last decade alone. This corresponds to almost twenty times Norway’s annual emissions.
How big the warming will be in the future depends on what choices we make . If we continue as today, warming could be between three and five degrees by the year 2100. If we succeed in cutting emissions significantly, we may be able to limit warming to two degrees (a goal adopted at a climate summit in 2009 ). This requires that we cut emissions by between 40 and 70 percent from 2010 to 2050, and that they are close to zero – or below zero – in the year 2100.
It means a lot if the heating is, for example, four degrees, or if we manage to limit it to two degrees. Climate change will negatively affect both nature and society. Among other things, they will affect food production. Global warming of two degrees will reduce important crops such as wheat, rice and maize in countries in the south – the part of the world that will account for almost all expected population growth by 2100. If the temperature increases by as much as four degrees, food security will be threatened throughout the world.
We have already emitted too much greenhouse gases to avoid all the negative consequences. We have therefore already started working to adapt to climate change: dams are being built to protect against increased floods, and insurance schemes based on weather are being established to ensure that farmers receive an income even if crops fail one year.
3: The story
The meeting in Paris is by no means the first attempt to reach a global climate agreement. It began in Rio in 1992. At that time, the countries of the world agreed on the UN Climate Convention . It is still the one that sets the framework for the climate negotiations. Among other things, the convention states that the rich countries must take responsibility and take the lead , and it lists who is rich and who is poor. The convention states, among other things, that we will stabilize the content of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but it does not contain any specific targets for emission reductions.
The first emission reduction agreement came in Kyoto (Japan) five years later. The Kyoto Protocol means that the rich countries will cut their emissions by about five percent on average, from 1990 to 2008-2012. All the rich countries took on the same type of commitment: A percentage cut in emissions from the entire economy measured against a reference year (1990 for most).
The Kyoto Protocol was intended to be the first step on the road to a larger and more ambitious climate agreement. It did not go quite like that.
When the parties gathered in Bali (Indonesia) in 2007, it was time to draw a new map, because the terrain had changed . The United States had withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, and many of the poor countries had great economic growth and emissions growth since 1992. Thus covered the Kyoto Protocol a much lower share of global emissions, and it was obvious that they needed an agreement also for the countries that did not were with there. In Bali, they agreed to enter into two new agreements in Copenhagen two years later: an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, and a broader agreement that would ensure increased climate efforts in all countries. It also did not go exactly as planned.
4: Success or failure in Copenhagen
The negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009 were one of the largest summits ever. Expectations were sky high. Now was the time to enter into the one major climate agreement that would stop serious climate change. There was no UN agreement . Instead, the United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa (BIKS countries) agreed on an agreement that many, but not all, countries agreed to. The summit ended with the “note” of the agreement these countries had entered into.
The agreement, which was negotiated during a few hectic hours at the end of the meeting in Copenhagen, turned the approach to international climate policy upside down. The agreement did not differentiate between rich and poor countries, as the Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol did, and the countries did not have to take on the same type of goals. Instead, all countries could voluntarily report what they were willing to do.
The meeting in Copenhagen is considered by many to be the biggest failure in the climate negotiations, but the meeting set a new course , and it is the course we still follow today based on what the countries themselves are willing to do.
It was also in Copenhagen that most countries for the first time agreed on a long-term goal : the increase in the global average temperature should be limited to less than two degrees measured against what it was before the industrial revolution (ca. 1750).
5: The road to Paris
In Durban (South Africa) in 2011, according to RECIPESINTHEBOX.COM, the countries agreed that by 2015 they would agree on a new, global climate agreement, which would cover all countries , and which would enter into force from 2020 . During the meetings that followed, in Doha (Qatar) in 2012, Warsaw in 2013 and Lima in 2014, it became increasingly clear what kind of agreement this would be. All countries must report how much they want to contribute to cutting emissions. So far, 170 countries have submitted contributions, and therefore we already know what the agreement in Paris will mean in terms of emission cuts in the short term (until 2025 or 2030).
The attempt to reach a new climate agreement has already achieved something important . It has put climate policy on the national agenda in very many countries, not least in the two largest emitting countries – the United States and China. Together, they account for over 40% of global emissions. Both countries have delivered new climate goals, and – at least as important – they have adopted new measures that can make it possible to meet these goals. In the summer of 2015, the USA decided to introduce regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. In the autumn of 2015, China promised to introduce a national quota trading system from 2017. Although the United States and China have not come up with the most ambitious goals, this is very important because they are both great powers and because they have previously been among the biggest brake blocks . Now they contribute constructively to reach an agreement, and their impact is obvious, for example in that new decisions globally are a blueprint of what the United States and China have agreed on.
However, we also know that the overall level of ambition will not be high enough for us to be on track to reach the two-degree goal. Assessments made by various research groups and organizations show that the sum of the promises that have been submitted means that we can limit the warming to somewhere between 2.7 and 3.7 degrees.