Preparing the Road to Paris
Some of the younger activists at a recent United Nations Climate Conference sported tee shirts which read: ‘You have been negotiating about climate change since before I was born!’. Indeed, the seemingly intractable negotiations which began with the First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Berlin in 1995 have been in essence a spectacular failure. These negotiations have been unable to deliver a global agreement capable of offering hope to the next generation that the inexorable rise in greenhouse gas emissions can be contained at a level that does not endanger their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of the entire planet.
This kind of agreement is, however, at last within reach – or is it? The forthcoming 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, from 30 November to 11 December 2015, is eagerly anticipated as offering the prospect of an agreement capable of bringing about reductions in carbon emissions sufficient to limit the rise in global temperature to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. A rise in temperature in excess of this would commit the world to unavoidable ‘dangerous climate change’.
Careful ‘choreography’ has produced an expectation that, at last, what Pope Francis referred to as the ‘Care for Our Common Home’ will be prioritised over narrow national self-interests and powerful vested interest groups. The background to this prospect and the chances of success are addressed in this article.