It was a momentous historical occasion in Le Bourget, Paris, earlier this week. On Dec. 11, 196 countries signed an agreement at the 21st Annual UN Climate Change Conference pledging to help slow down carbon emissions.
The central clause of the agreement vows to lower “the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change”. The necessity of a pledge such as this is blatant — if the temperature rises over 2 °C, it will cause more wildfires, flooding, crop failures, food shortages and diseases worldwide.
The agreement will determine which technologies, capacity building techniques, and finances will help mitigate climate change the most effectively. There is also is a pledge by developed countries to help developing countries gain access to appropriate resources to help in the lowering of emissions. The exact resources have yet to be determined.
Participating countries will determine their own personal emission targets by 2018, and by 2020 each participant should have created a concrete plan to carry out those targets. Countries will meet again in 2023 to determine if their plans have been effective. They will then meet every five years to report and review their progress.
There is an emphasis on transparency in the agreement. Each country is required to submit a bi-annual inventory report of relevant emissions and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases. The reports will be further assessed by the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), which oversaw the Kyoto Protocol.
Developed countries will also work towards raising and providing $100 billion U.S. per year to help developing countries tackle carbon emissions.
The agreement to contribute $100 billion annually to help developing countries is a new strategy for climate change. It unites the countries in a collaborative effort to make a difference and allows developing countries to progress with the rest of the world in an eco-friendly manner. Many criticisms have arisen because the $100 billion term was only mentioned in the preamble to the agreement and the actual amount of global aid remains to be determined.
The focus on reducing climate emissions is a central focus in the accord, as is this new found emphasis on helping developing countries reach their target climate goals. Global citizenship has finally been put on the table and the sheer number of countries that signed the agreement reflects a growing change in international attitudes and growing diplomacy towards climate change.
The inclusion of 196 countries in the world highlights the fact that climate change is an issue that nullifies economic bias and world hierarchies. Instead, it unites every person on the planet and redefines the importance of global citizenship.
Canada has thrown its support behind the agreement. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change said after the conference that she was encouraged to see so many Canadians in Paris. “This is the spirit we now need to bring back home so that we can tackle climate change together,” she said. “I cannot stress enough how important it is that every Canadian take part in this effort. Climate change is the challenge of our generation. Together we can do this.”
Understanding and acknowledging the connection between climate change and several globalized social issues is a step in the right direction, and recognizing these relations could lead to great change. And we can only hope that it isn’t too late to save the beautiful planet earth.
Featured image: Betrayal By Mario Sanchez Nevado