Sunday 18 August 2019

Climate Change Q & A: Prospect of a deal has never been better

Protesters at the climate change march in Dublin yesterday
Protesters at the climate change march in Dublin yesterday
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

What is happening in Paris? A total of 147 governments will attend the 21st so-called Conference of the Parties (COP) in an attempt to hammer out a deal to address climate change.

This is needed because the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), having reviewed scientific literature from across the globe, has concluded that climate change is real, is caused by human activity, and must be addressed to prevent catastrophic changes to our climate system.

How many people will attend?

Organisers believe around 30,000 will attend the summit, which will be opened this morning by French President François Hollande, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and French Foreign Affairs Minister and President of COP 21, Laurent Fabius.

Will civil society be represented?

Yes. Side events are organised, but there will be no large-scale climate marches following the Paris terrorist attacks.

Have we not been here before?

Yes. The first COP took place more than 20 years ago, and in 1997 a deal was struck - called the Kyoto Protocol. But, crucially, the USA pulled out. It is hoped to strike a new deal in Paris.

What's the scientific evidence?

This year is the hottest on record, and last year was the stormiest winter on record in Ireland. Average global temperatures have risen 1C in the last century, and scientists believe if they go above 2C it will cause "dangerous" climate change.

Have countries set out their emission reductions in advance?

Most have. But experts warn the current limits will keep warming to 2.7C - not enough to prevent catastrophic change.

Can these targets change?

Yes. There is nothing to stop countries from pledging more ambitious targets.

What is Ireland's position?

We are bound by the European Commission, which has ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 20pc by 2020, and 30pc by 2030. Next year, international EU negotiations will begin where Ireland hopes to secure lower targets for agriculture.

What are the stumbling blocks?

There are many. A crucial question surrounds finance, and who will pay the bill, and in particular assist developing countries to adapt.

Is there hope?

Yes. The prospects of a deal have never been better. The US and China, among the biggest emitters, have agreed to reduce emissions and there is a mood among civil society, governments and business for change. It will all fall to the level of ambition expressed by countries. It is hoped to secure a deal by Friday week, when the conference formally closes, but organisers have indicated it may run into Saturday if required.

Irish Independent

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