What Have The Paris Climate Talks Achieved So Far?

4238 What Have The Paris Climate Talks Achieved So Far?
The largest gathering in history of world leaders. European External Action Service/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

We’re half way through the two-week COP21 climate change talks in Paris. The world leaders have opened the discussions, and left it for the negotiators from almost two hundred different nations to come to some sort of agreement on how best to collectively lower our greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully avert serious climate change. But what has been achieved so far?

After Four Years, Progress Made


Delegates at the talk – representing 195 countries – have approved the first draft text which will form the basis for the agreement that will potentially bind the participating nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. This is a promising start, as it has taken four years to get to this point. But things are set to get tougher. The current draft is 48 pages long, and contains no less than 900 square brackets, which denote areas of disagreement.

Negotiators listen at the COP21 Paris climate talks, where stakes are high. Image credit: COP21 PARIS/Flickr CC0 1.0

One such area of disagreement is what the actual long-term goal of commitment should be. Many lower-lying island nations want an agreement that would see the average global temperature stay within 1.5oC of preindustrial levels. Anything above that, they warn, and their countries will suffer severe damage. Others, however, are opting for making sure we stay within 2oC of warming. There is also dispute about whether all, or just some, parts of the final commitment should be legally binding.  

The Developing Nations


Many eyes have been focused on India over the last week, not least because it is a rapidly developing nation, and how the country acts over the next 10 years could significantly affect whether we as a whole limit global warming. Whether or not India, as well as many other developing nations, stick to coal, or diversify and seek alternate energy sources will be key. So far, the country has been making waves, with many prominent statements and pledges being made.

French President Francois Hollande and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi annouce the international solar alliance. Image credit: COP21 PARIS/Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

The country’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has announced that the nation will lead an international solar alliance of over 120 countries that will seek to develop and produce cheap solar electricity. Described by Modi as “the sunrise of new hope,” the aim is to raise over $400 million (£265 million) for the initiative. In a slightly more controversial move, Indian negotiators have also said that the country is willing to cut the consumption of coal, but only if the richer nations can compensate it for doing so.

Not Only Governments Are Responsible


The governments can’t be expected to do everything on their own, and if the members of the private sector continues to bury their heads in the sand then any commitments made are likely to fail anyway. But this past week has seen many of the world’s corporate giants move in the right direction. In addition to the collaboration of many Internet heavyweights, from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, aiming to increase investment in green technology, Google announced one of the largest acquisitions of green energy for any corporate organization outside of utilities.

There is still a long way to go, and a lot of negotiations to make. The risk now is that even though the first draft has been approved, the details that need to be ironed out are too many. Pressure is mounting, although there seems to be a degree of optimism in the air.   

Main image credit: European External Action Service/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0


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