PowerPlant, cc Mario Goebbels, Flickr, modified, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ 

The Paris Climate Change Conference might be the turning point in addressing climate change at the international level. The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) is the annual meeting of the 195 nations that make up the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The goal is to reach an agreement and set a target cap for carbon emissions at 450 ppm, limiting global warming within 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists designate as a critical threshold.

It is easy to be cynical about achieving such an international agreement. The Copenhagen 2009 conference will probably haunt the COP21 meeting, due to the failure of delivering a climate deal. Domestic politics and the unwillingness of states to be bound by a top-down decision, hammered in at the last minute between the United States, Brazil, China, South Africa and India, derailed the conference. That is why at this year’s conference the states adopted a bottom-up approach, with every country declaring their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). The problem is that, according to a UN synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs, the commitments made so far by 147 countries will not reach the goal of limiting global warming to 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. These INDCs cover only about 85% of the existing emission levels and will not be sufficient to reverse the upward trend. The projections point to a 2.7℃ rise in temperatures. There is also no guarantee that countries will adhere to their commitments. International agreements often set aspirational goals and many countries derogate from their obligations when faced with adverse domestic conditions. The U.S. signed, but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol; Canada dropped out of it in 2011; while Russia and Japan decided not to assume further emissions limitations for the second phase of the protocol.

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