The COP21 in Paris: Will it be a success or a failure?

In September 2012, the President of the French Republic François Hollande had presented the candidacy of France to host the 21st Conference of Parties in December 2015  for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It has officially been named the host country during the COP19 that took place in Warsaw. Established in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, the Conference of Parties (COP) is an annual meeting of the United Nations on climate change. They aim to bring together the 195 Member-States of the UNFCCC.

The alarming trajectory to a warming of 3 °C to 5 °C pointed by the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report urges the international community to become more involved in the fight against global warming. Following this, France and Europe will aim to facilitate consensus and to allow a unanimous adoption of a legally binding agreement at the international level in promising to achieve the objective of 2 °C at the end of the conference. In this perspective, it would be interesting to understand how the COP21 held in Paris will be a turning point in the fight against global warming.

 The COP 21 is set to highlight difficult negotiations between countries

The COP21 in Paris will be the scene of either a success or failure in our history. However, it will be mainly the result of the United Nations program and negotiations for over 20 years. Why will it be different from any  previous conferences?

Despite the conference being scheduled for December 2015, any sort of  progress is still noticeable. The world is always perceived as dual between rich and developing countries. The latter perceive the climate issue as an obstacle to their development. This perceived division, which was a direct byproduct of the Kyoto protocol, will be the challenge of COP 21. In 1997, the Kyoto protocol had ranked countries in order of greenhouse gas emissions. As developing countries China, India and Brazil are in  “annex 2” meaning that they are not subject to the obligation to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. As a result of this, the Kyoto protocol has received a lot of criticism over the last 20 years.

Presently, China has become a major player in the international arena. The bilateral agreement reached on November 12 with the United States is the first mutual commitment over an encrypted plan to reduce their emissions. Alas, the binding instrument is absent and the objectives are far too ambitious. The United States promise only a reduction from 28 % to 26% by 2025 compared to their 2005 level. Nonetheless, Barack Obama faces many challenges. The influence of the lobby at the national level is considerable. A strong climate sceptic movement is now supported by the Republican Party. These actors play on doubt and carry with them, the American citizen.

On the other hand, America differs in terms of energy. Some countries have mix energy such as Costa Rica, France or Brazil. In France, energy policy is based on nuclear power. In Brazil, hydropower has the favour of public policy. These countries advocate more coercive legislation. Having said that, other countries continue to have a very high carbon mix. This is the case of the United States, the OPEC countries, China, India and Russia. The failure of the COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 was also due to these differences.

Furthermore, countries play the passenger theory. Each country has the interest to allow others to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases rather than do it themselves. Therefore the problem is essentially a political decision left up to a supranational level. In any case, there is no central bank, which can centralise or control emission allowances. Having said that, the prospect of adaptation at an international level will only raise financial issues and trepidations. Will wealthier countries have to fund poorer countries? The European Commission is convinced that "If these financial answers do not emerge, there will be no agreement in Paris."

The credibility of all countries is at stake and our planet cannot afford to wait anymore.

 An essential agreement for the preservation of the planet

The COP21 will be the appointment of credibility among states.  20 years after the Earth Summit in Rio, it's now or never to build an effective agreement. The Kyoto protocol has never been ratified by the United States. China has not been considered a developed country. Since then, China has surpassed the United States and has taken the top spot in 2006. In this transition towards a low-carbon development, adaptation will require significant investment.

Paris has to give the answer as to how the commitments have been made and what legal instrument has been implemented in this. Will states be constrained by their goal ? This agreement is the last chance for politicians to preserve the climate target of 2 °C degrees by 2100.

Will you have to wait for an increase of 4 ° C to understand that reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are necessary? Simply put, if no action is taken the temperature can rise up to 4.8% by 2100 according to the IPCC. There is only one solution at hand which is to reduce its emissions from 70% to 40% for 2050 and up 0% for 2100. Faced with such ambitions, it is imperative to think over our social model. Think about a new model of consumption, daily life. Global warming will affect so many different countries. Certainly unfair, but the most serious consequences will affect  mainly the poor countries.

The Stern report suggests that without action, damage costs will result in a permanent annual loss in GDP of around 5% to 20%. Economists  have also had difficulties evaluating the exact magnitude of the required effort. The agreement in Copenhagen (COP15) in 2009 was a failure because of the  a voluntary approach of the countries present. This mentality must come to an end. The COP20 in Lima in December 2014 has not had the important role; it was to have to draw the outlines of a new agreement.

The longer we wait, the more the fight against climate change will prove to be difficult. In an election context, policymakers are not considering the long term and this has no effect on them. This is selfishness coupled with the variety of situations from each state blocking any effective policy. Between mix-carbon and renewable energy, there are divergent positions. The only way to combat this is by a joing effort on everyone's behalf. The Framework Convention of the United Nations in Paris should result in a binding agreement of all and for all. All countries have the cards in hand.

Edited by: Dina Rokic