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Path to Paris & COP21

In early June, global delegations to the U.N. Climate Talks in Bonn, Germany, worked diligently to prepare what will be the very first global climate pact, to be presented in December at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. (COP21)  The Bonn conferences, organized by the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , worked to reduce the approximately 90 pages of the draft future pact. The  goal is to fully streamline the final document.

The agreement will become effective in 2020 and will mandate that all countries limit their greenhouse gas emissions that have caused the earth’s surface temperature to rise, increased rainfall and flooding, more frequent droughts and severe heat waves.

Guiding the road to COP21 in Paris was the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, originally formed in 2011 at the U.N. Climate Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa. At that conference, 195 countries pledged to have an international climate change treaty by 2015. Work on the treaty has already seen efforts to decarbonize the global economy,  and plans have been put in place to protect communities against climate disasters. Among the countries moving forward are Norway, which has announced that it will divest itself of $8 billion in coal-related investments.

Post conference news reports emphasized that although progress was slow, certain projects did move forward. For instance, conferees agreed on:

  • Reporting requirements to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation,( REDD) for transparent forest governance,
  • indigenous rights
  • conservation of biodiversity
  • the role of non-market-based policy approaches to forest protection
  • non-carbon benefits of REDD+ activities.

One session documented how East Asia is playing a key role in clean energy development.  In recent years China and South Korea have filed the most patents for biofuels, solar, and wind energy. Other initiatives discussed at the climate talks were optimistic. The ‘Climate Action Fair’ featured climate programs of business and subnational governments, such as IKEA’s pledge to invest 1 billion Euros in renewable energy and support for climate-vulnerable communities. A recent U.N. Environment Programme Report, complemented other initiatives by  subnational governments, cities, businesses and investors. The report was a roadmap to cut emissions by cities, regions, and businesses that could prevent approximately 1.8 gigatons of carbon emissions in 2020.

The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) [http://resilient-cities.iclei.org/] also had a strong presence in Bonn. Prior to the convention ICLEI released  a 10-point action plan to guide and inspire governments to work towards climate change. Cities around the world are projected to face rising temperature between 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century  climate.nasa.gov/effects. Sea levels are projected to rise 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s, 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s and up to 6 feet by 2100.

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