News World What is the UN Climate Change Conference?

What is the UN Climate Change Conference?

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As Paris remains in a state of emergency following the recent terrorist attacks, 40,000 world leaders and diplomats are gathering for a landmark United Nations climate change conference.

World leaders – including Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – will open the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) to the UN’s Climate Change authority on November 30. 

Leaders will have to agree on a way to tackle climate change; a solution has been planned since the 1992 COP.

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And given coming to this agreement means 195 nations must all agree to a way to tackle climate change, it’s no surprise a decision has been 23 years in the making.

It is believed that the decision from the conference will be the world’s first truly universal plan on limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

With 2015 tipped by the UN to be the warmest year on record, and the 2011 to 2015 period confirmed as the warmest five years on record, the world is waiting to see what comes of the COP 21.

Who is going to be there?

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US President Barack Obama and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping will both attend. Photo: Getty

On the first day of the conference, November 30 (Paris time), world leaders will get just five minutes each to outline what their country is doing, and pledge their commitment to an agreement being settled.

Some 150 leaders including US president Barack Obama, China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Mr Turnbull will attend the official start of the UN conference on Monday.

However, most leaders will leave after the first day of the conference, and much of the work will be left to a 40,000-strong force of diplomats and public servants from around the world.

Also represented will be environmental groups and various lobbyists acting on behalf of business groups, industry and agriculture.

Labor leader Bill Shorten is also in Paris for talks with diplomats on climate change.

What will they decide?

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Both Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and French President Francois Hollande want the deal to be legally binding. Photo: AAP

The main goal of the talks is to agree on how to limit average global warming to two degrees Celsius – or perhaps less – against pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

This will focus on curbing fossil fuel emissions blamed for climate change. Since 1850, the average global warming level has risen to one degree Celsius.

According to TIME, if no action is taken, the mark will reach five degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

A rise to two degrees Celsius over pre-Industrial Revolution levels would be a “gateway” to dangerous global warming, BBC reported.

Scientists say this will have a volatile effect on our environment and on human civilisation.

More broadly, leaders will be looking for the best way to limit the world’s emissions while still allowing its economies to grow.

What’s Australia proposed?

Environment Minister Greg Hunt argued against having the taskforce investigate the bureau.
Environment minister Greg Hunt announced the target while Tony Abbott was still PM. Mr Turnbull has not amended it. Photo: AAP

Past climate change treaties – such as the 1997 Kyoto summit – took a top-down approach to agreements.

That meant wealthy countries framed solutions and pledged to contribute money to pay for the climate change tactics of the poorer ones.

However, this has not been so successful, with funding not being paid as countries agreed.

Therefore this agreement will be constructed from the bottom up, meaning countries decide how they will tackle the problem, to best suit their means.

For example, the Federal Government earlier this year committed to a 26 per cent to 28 per cent carbon emissions reduction by 2030.

Last week, Labor announced it would aim for a 45 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

Industry Minister Christopher Pyne labelled the target as “mad”.

Is it meaningful?

Experts have warned that any decision should force the agreement to be reviewed every five years, to make sure countries are meeting targets.

It is unclear if the deal will be legally binding. US Secretary of State John Kerry thinks if it was, it would not pass the US Senate and therefore his country would be locked out of the deal.

However, other leaders, especially from Europe, want the deal to be legally binding, or framed as a “treaty”.


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