UNFCCC- COP 21
United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 or CMP11
Why in News?
- The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21 or CMP11 will be held in Paris, France in 2015
About COP 21.
- This will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
- The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.
What is Conference of Parties?
- The COP is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
- All States that are Parties to the Convention are represented at the COP, at which they review the implementation of the Convention and any other legal instruments that the COP adopts and take decisions necessary to promote the effective implementation of the Convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.
- Over the past 150 years, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, a very long lasting GHG, has risen by more than a third, along with an increase of other GHGs such as methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons.
- The first half of this increase took place over two centuries, from the start of the Industrial Revolution to around 1973, but the second half of the increase occurred much more rapidly, in less than four decades.
- Human activity has already made the world warmer by 0.8 degrees Celsius than pre-industrial times.
- Three main features of this phenomenon are significant for making ethical arguments about climate change.
- Most GHG emissions come from countries that have become wealthy as a result of industrial development. Roughly two-thirds of the emissions are from the United States, Europe, and Japan, which have about a seventh of the world’s population and half its wealth.
- There is a correlation between emissions and wealth, so that countries that are wealthier generally have higher emissions. The average American has per capita emissions of about 18 metric tonnes each year compared to the average Bangladeshi, who emits about half a tonne of carbon dioxide each year.
- Each country’s consumption pattern points towards its emissions and in general the poor tend to consume much less than the wealthy.
- But there are also wealthy nations, such as Denmark, with per capita emissions of 7.2 tonnes per year, where a combination of national policy, natural resources and lifestyle choices have resulted in relatively low levels of consumption.
- There is also a distinction that must be made between “survival” and “luxury” emissions: the difference between emissions from profligate lifestyles and those associated with energy uses for subsistence living.
- For example, the emissions arising from living in large, inefficient houses and flying for frivolous reasons are quite distinct from those associated with burning wood for cooking.
- With very little carbon space left in the atmosphere, what has emerged is the concept of a “Limited carbon budget”, or an upper bound to the amount of GHGs that can be pumped into the atmosphere while still maintaining a stable climate.
- This budget has already been largely depleted by a few at the expense of the many. This feature can be called Disproportionate accumulation, because one set of groups has used up not only a disproportionate amount of the world’s limited carbon budget but has also become vastly richer than the rest of the world as a result.
- Indeed, no matter what we do now, it seems likely that the Earth will warm by at least 1 degree Celsius by the end of the century.
- Delayed effects have two kinds of implications:
- people living today are only now beginning to experience the harmful effects of GHGs emitted by people generations past.
- Since greenhouse gases continue to accumulate, actions taken today will have consequences for future generations.
- Delayed effects thus points to an intergenerational asymmetry between the emissions and impacts, which raises a range of complex ethical concerns.
- The poor, particularly those living in developing countries, will experience far worse consequences from climate change than the wealthy, especially those living in rich countries.
- There is growing evidence that the worst effects of climate change will fall disproportionately on those living in sub-Saharan Africa, small islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and deltaic regions of South and Southeast Asia, Egypt and China.
- This is due to geographic and economic reasons. Many developing countries are on small islands or encompass low-lying coastal areas and other regions that happen to be especially vulnerable to natural disasters, which will be exacerbated by climate change.
- But perhaps more important, they typically do not have the resources to adapt to climate change by such protective measures as seawalls and embankments or by extensive insurance arrangements.
- Indeed, the most vulnerable people will be those who lead subsistence livelihoods in highly risk-prone areas.