As we start preparing to leave for the upcoming 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22), it is useful to reflect on what issues are at stake this year and what outcomes might be desirable.
UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been a negotiating body since its inception in 1992. Conferences of Parties (COPs) have been held every year since 1995, and during each COP, all parties (countries) to the Convention convene to work towards a global climate agreement. That agreement was reach last year at COP 21, and is now represented by the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement required a threshold of 55 Parties representing more than 55% of global emissions to go into effect, which we achieved on October 5th of this year. Now that the Paris Agreement will enter into force (unlike the Kyoto Protocol), the hope is that the Paris Agreement will truly represent a global effort to make significant strides to mitigate carbon emissions. The Paris Agreement focuses on limiting emissions so that climate change is limited to 2°C (with an aspirational goal of 1.5°) and helping communities adapt to the effects of climate change that are already inevitable. As a result of this agreement, the UNFCCC has changed from a negotiating body focused on creating an international agreement to an implementation body that will work on enforcing the Paris Agreement.
Although the Paris Agreement is now in effect, significant barriers still remain. Namely, how will we, as a global community, actually cut emissions by so much? The Paris Agreement is unique because it allows each country to set its own goals through Nationally Determined Contributions – but what will happen if major emitters, like the United States, are unable to, or refuse to, make the types of cuts that will be necessary to stay below the 2° limit?
COP22 will begin to address many of these questions. A significant part of these negotiations is expected to focus on financial mechanisms that will support the process – for instance, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) will require financial support both to mitigate emissions and to protect vulnerable populations from climate effects. How will this transfer of funds take place?
Another big question for COP 22 refers to Loss and Damage. Loss and Damage refers to negative effects of climate change that occur despite other mitigation and adaptation action. A mechanism will be required to provide financial and other support for loss and damage when extreme and catastrophic events occur. This mechanism has not yet been identified, and developed and developing countries have significantly different perspectives about how it should work and how much support it should provide.
This blog post was a contribution of Sachi Graber, one of our delegates to COP 22. Check back soon for future updates by her and others from our team!