Climate Conference Turns 21
by Catie Wise on Friday, December 11th, 2015
Monday November 30th was the first day of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, better known as COP21. The annual Conference of Parties (COP) typically meets to assess how well the plan from the Rio Convention is being executed. According to the COP21 website, the Rio Convention began “the international political response to climate change… at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where [it] included the adoption of the UN Framework on the Climate Change (UNFCCC).” Also, as reported by cop21paris.org, “this convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.’” The very first COP occurred in 1995 in Berlin, and the conferences have continued annually, producing multiple significant meetings since the start of COP.
COP21 is focusing specifically on “[reaching] a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C,” as stated by cop21paris.org. This year’s conference is being held in Paris, France, and is one of the biggest international conferences to ever occur in the country with participation from leaders of about 150 nations. Many officials and leaders, including President Barack Obama, believe that on December 11th, 2015, when COP21 ends, they will be successful in coming to a global agreement regarding climate change.
On the first day of the conference, China and the United States, the two countries with the greatest greenhouse gas production, discussed the steps needed in order to achieve the goal. During Obama’s address to the conference, he stated that the United States understands its effect on the climate change and its ability to solve the problem.
According to CNN, Obama also stated, “Over the last seven year, we’ve made ambitious investments in clean energy and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We’ve multiplied wind power threefold, and solar power more than twenty-fold, helping create parts of America where these clean power sources are finally cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.”
The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, stated his belief that COP21 “is not a finish line, but a new starting point,” and that any endpoint should incorporate the differences between all nations, as reported by CNN.
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, said that climate change is “one of the greatest threats humanity is facing.” According to CNN, Putin also stated that “’Russia not only prevented the increase of greenhouse emissions, it has reduced them’… promising a 70% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.”
CNN also reported that the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, desired a “comprehensive, equitable and durable agreement that leads [them] to restore balance between humanity and nature,” and that German Chancellor Angela Merkel reminded the members of the conference of the “billions of people pinning their hopes on what [they] do in Paris.” Across the board, the overall viewpoint of the members of COP21 is to come out the other end of the conference with a clear plan for the future.
The issue of climate change is not only a problem discussed by global leaders, but it is also a topic of discussion right here at Milton Academy. Milton provides many platforms to talk about the issue and to try to do something about it, with clubs like the Sustainability Club and Lorax. Zack Herman (II), a member of the Sustainability Club, says “the main focus of the Sustainability Club this year is to really focus on the effect of plastic on the environment by getting Smart Water out of the bookstore. The production of plastic is contributing to greenhouse gasses, and we have these huge basically plastic islands in the middle of the oceans – some as big as Texas – where our plastic is just building up. We, as a club, want to try to get across to the community how just a little thing like a plastic bottle can contribute to something as big as climate change.”
Along with discussions among clubs, there is also open talk of climate change throughout the Milton community. Mr. Moriarty, on the topic of COP21, believes that “any reasonably attainable goal is not going to stop climate change. The things that sound like they’re different from the last time they tried this, is that now almost everybody agrees that the science says global warming is happening, and that humans have a big hand in it. Even though they are not willing to agree that humans are the definitive cause, we’re a big contributor, and therefore, we need to do something about it. The frightening thing is that if we don’t make significant changes, then everything is going to happen faster and faster. Adding a little bit more, and a little bit more makes everything worse faster, and this issue is happening with temperature changes.”
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