Climate negotiations: Challenges for 2015

© J.Girardot/Tara Expeditions

In December 2015, France will host the 21st Conference of Parties at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP21) – also known as Paris Climate Conference 2015. More than 40,000 diplomats and representatives of civil society will meet to try to set up a new framework for the struggle against climate change.

On this occasion, Tara will be present in Paris with the Ocean and Climate Platform to highlight the importance of the world’s oceans in these negotiations. Here is a quick review of the history and the issues involved in this crucial event for the planet:

Climate talks: Long term work

Thanks to increasingly precise scientific work, today we can say with certainty that the climate is changing and that much of this disorder is related to human activity. However, it has taken a long time before an international framework for the fight against climate change could actually be implemented. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro marked the beginning of awareness, with the creation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, called “UNFCCC.” The UNFCCC aims to define measures to reduce global warming and to cope with inevitable temperature increases. It became effective on March 21, 1994 and has been ratified by 196 “parties” (stakeholders in the Convention).

What is a COP?

The COP (Conference of the Parties) brings together every year States or groups of States that have ratified the UNFCCC, in order to make decisions necessary to reach the goals in the fight against change climate. Decisions can only be taken unanimously by the parties, or by consensus. In 1997 the COP3 adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which defines the international legal framework for the climate. In effect since 2005, it set up goals and binding deadlines for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in economically strong countries that have agreed to reduce their overall emissions by at least 5% compared to the 1990 levels. The Kyoto Protocol was supposed to end in 2011, but in 2009 the States meeting in Copenhagen at the COP15 failed to come to a new agreement. The protocol was therefore temporarily extended.

What issues will be on the agenda in 2015 at the COP21 in Paris?

The COP in Paris will be the 21st, hence the name “COP21.”  Six years after the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, it should lead to a new treaty (to become effective in 2020) replacing the Kyoto Protocol. Its objective is to define the necessary measures for limiting global warming to 2 degrees by 2100, a limit beyond which the consequences might be irreparable. Preparing the text of the new agreement began at the COP20 in Lima in December 2014. This text will be the object of work sessions throughout the year. In Geneva last February, the first meeting produced an enhanced version of the draft, covering all the main substantive issues related to climate change: adaptation, financing, technology, capacity building, mitigation, and transparency. Each participating State was able to make its voice heard, so this is an open text, putting all the options on the table. The challenge of COP21 in Paris will be to sort through these options and reach a clear agreement, accepted unanimously by the 196 negotiating States or groups of States.

Heading for the Paris Agreement

The agreement will be composed of 4 elements:

• A legal agreement

• The contributions of countries for 2025 or 2030: their efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gas

• A financial component

• Concrete commitments to action by non-governmental participants (“Agenda solutions”)

As host country, France will have an important role to play by allowing negotiations to proceed in a fair and trusting climate. The process will not be easy because the negotiating States have very different claims, according to the challenges they are confronting. Everyone is not equal in facing climate change. An agreement must be reached between the developed and developing countries – the most vulnerable and the most polluting countries – without reducing the ambitions of the text.

The Ocean: at the heart of the climate machine

Covering 71% of the globe, the world Ocean, beyond its huge volume of water, is a very complex ecosystem that provides services essential for the maintenance of life on Earth. Much of the CO2 emitted annually by mankind into the atmosphere is absorbed by the Ocean via complex mechanisms in which plankton plays a major role. The Ocean is the major oxygen supplier, even more so than the forests, thus constituting the main lung of the planet. It is at the heart of the global climate system. Measures to better understand climate changes and to better adapt to them are required and must be included in the agreement resulting from the Paris Climate Conference in 2015. Preserving the good health of our oceans must become an absolute priority.

Laurène Lebelt

Source :


Related items :

- Know more about Tara, member of the Ocean & Climate platform

- Find more information about World Oceans Day at UNESCO

- Heading to Paris Climate Conference (COP21)