COP21 summit set to start in Paris

The long-awaited COP21 is about to start on Nov. 30 for two weeks of negotiations expected to deliver a new global climate deal to curb greenhouse gas emissions and cope with the negative effects of climate change.

Preparatory meetings of the least developed countries, the small island developing States, the African States and the Group of 77+China are ongoing at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

The UNFCCC climate summit officially opens on Monday, Nov. 30, at the Parc des Expositions du Bourget, north of Paris. Around 140 heads of state and government are expected for the opening “Leaders Event” organized by the French government, host of COP21.

Global leaders have confirmed they will attend the conference that runs until Dec. 11, despite the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks, Reuters reported. The French government enhanced security measures and did not authorize the two major climate marches planned on Nov. 29 and on Dec.12, to avoid additional risks. According to the Guardian, environmental and civil society groups involved in the organization of the marches said the decision will be respected. Other marches and initiatives are planned in several cities around the world to put pressure on politicians to adopt an effective and equitable agreement in Paris.

In the first week delegates are tasked to discuss and narrow down the draft text issued at the end of the last session in Bonn, while the second week is mostly dedicated to political negotiation and to iron out eventual disagreements on the deal to be adopted at the end of the conference and planned to come into effect in 2020.

So far 178 parties to the UNFCCC have presented their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, that outline their climate plans until 2030 and that will be the basis for the new agreement. The bottom-up, voluntary approach chosen to find a deal in Paris (the opposite strategy of the top-down line the led to the Kyoto Protocol) succeeded in generating a massive participation by countries that put emission reduction pledges on the table. In some cases the participation overcame national barriers, as in the case of Taiwan, that announced a 2030 reduction goal of 50 percent respect to the business as usual.

According to the official report assessing the aggregate impact of INDCs, the national contributions are expected to slow down emission growth by a third in the 2010–2030 period compared to the period 1990–2010, if implemented. Despite an unprecedented involvement of countries in the process, estimates said INDCs are not sufficient to keep the global temperature increase below the 2°C threshold.

The key issues to be determined in Paris will be the system to review and scale up emission reductions over time, together with a long-term goal, climate finance, a loss-and damage mechanism and the legal force of the Paris agreement.


(Image: Le Bourget site, 23 Nov. Photo credit: France Ecologie Energie/Flickr)