The world is at a critical juncture in its efforts to combat climate change and both time – and political will – are wearing thin.
Every year, world leaders representing 195 nations and the European Union meet in the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Within the framework of the UNFCCC, the COP is the decision-making authority, working in a quasi-parliamentary fashion. Each year, the COP adopts a set of important decisions. The process of balancing the interests of countries worldwide has been slow and cumbersome.
The UN was set up for nations to act together to address issues of international importance. Never before was it needed as much as now, in the face of a planetary climate challenge that cannot be solved without global action.
Between 30 November and 11 December 2015, in the 21st annual meeting, these parties convene in Paris in an attempt to thrash out a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2ºC.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has already cautioned that pledges being made by governments ahead of COP21 would not restrict global warming to 2ºC.
“I want that to be clear,” she said, “because I think it is unfair for public opinion to be misled and think that Paris will be a miraculous solution that takes us from where we are now, on the way to 4‑5ºC increase, to be all of a sudden on the way to this miraculous, wonderful, perfect target of 2ºC. That is not the case. Even with a warming of around 2ºC, the adaptation challenges will be important and many ecosystems will come under high stress or be lost altogether, such as the majority of coral reefs.”
In addition to action at every level of economies, societies and governments around the world, we still need a global agreement between nations. Without the UN, some governments could just walk away from the problem. Without the UN, how will nations decide which country should do what in a way that is fair to all? We need a UN forum to check that countries’ climate plans are adequate to the scale of the challenge.
Political will is largely underpinned by economic concerns – national governments need to realise that climate change is a global economic concern. Government leaders need to stop twiddling their thumbs at COPs while the planet overheats. It is time to knuckle down and agree to a global plan to cut the greenhouse gases causing climate change and build our resilience to climate change impacts.
WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature, is at the forefront of civil society efforts to pressure world leaders into taking action at COP21 that will change climate change. Beyond Paris, the organisation’s role will be to continue to hold leaders accountable for delivering upon and increasing their commitments until society knows that global warming will not go beyond levels that humans or ecosystems can bear.