The Roadmap to Paris COP21

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COP21Where: COP21 is taking place in Paris, France
When: COP21 began on November 30th and ends on December 11th, 2015
What is COP21? 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11)

Global leaders have once again taken to the international stage – all eyes are on Paris. Decisions made at COP21 will be crucial for the planet’s sustainability in the coming years and possibly decades. The outcome will shape the lives of future generations.

History of Climate Negotiations

1992 – First Climate TalksRoadmap-Parigi-2015_ENG

  • Since the 1990s, there have been annual meetings between high-level international diplomats to discuss climate change and what can be done collectively to slow the process. Learn about the past climate negotiations and their outcomes here.
  • Climate change experts are feeling optimistic about how the discussions have progressed thus far. Find out the details in an article from the Environmental Leader. Here are some highlights that are boosting the experts’ confidence:
    • These discussions are more diverse and solution-oriented, fostering unity rather than stalemate arguments.
    • Today, many businesses and previously-reluctant leaders are firmly standing alongside climate justice advocates.
    • The conference is taking an inclusive approach, where commitments are based on the needs and abilities of each county. It also involves smaller players, such as industries and businesses.

Current State of Affairs

184 – The number of countries which presented a post-2020 climate action plan outline at COP21
  • Earth Overshoot Day Hourglass - Pollution, Save Earth, Eco Concept94% of the participating countries have already made emission-reduction commitments.
    Track which countries submitted their plans with a graph from the World Resources Institute.
  • So far great progress has been made! Experts predict that the commitments made to date help limit global warming to 2.7°C above pre-industrial level by the end of the century. That’s only 0.7°C more than the target and the conference has not even wrapped up yet. Follow global warming expectations with a virtual thermometer on the Climate Action Tracker website.
  • A look at the science suggests there is a need for individuals and businesses to do their part to reduce global warming, in addition to what governments are doing. Watch the video from CBC News to find out the details.

Understanding COP21

2°C (3.6°F) – Global warming goal at COP21Conceptual image of electric bulb against grey background

Goal of COP21: The parties need to move towards a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, which would keep global warming below 2°C until 2100. Following that, world emissions need to fall to zero, according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Limiting global warming to 2°C is considered the most the Earth could take without risking catastrophic changes to food production, wildlife, and water reserves.  Find out more about the conference and its goals on the COP21 website.

Negotiation Structure: To foster the free flow of thoughts and to hopefully accomplish their agenda, the conference has  three discussions phases taking place:

  1. Informal meetings: First, countries are placed in random groups together to meet in a less formal setting “over a cup of coffee” to discuss certain details and smaller portions of the agreement. There is much to cover and these smaller committees help to accomplish more.
  1. Facilitated sessions: Second, there are between 10 and 20 facilitated sessions streamlining elements of the agreement and looking for compromises. Policies formed in these sessions require a more formal setting to ensure unanimous outcomes.
  1. Open-ended contact group: The final phase involves a set group that compiles all the reports from the informal and facilitated meetings and aggregates the data. While it is not mandatory for other meetings to be open, all proposals for the agreement in the open-ended contact group are reviewed in a transparent fashion. After this stage, the agreement text is transferred to the French conference hosts who sort out the minor details with the ministers and experts.

This approach should lead to an agreement that will be inclusive and flexible enough for each country to implement with minimum resistance from the industries and political groups. Find out more here.


195 – Number of parties to reach an agreement

Reaching an agreement between 195 participants is no easy task. There are many debatable topics to cover such as climate financing, finalizing the legal language of the main document, and making the agreement flexible enough to last for years. Read about the 5 major challenges in this article.


$30 trillion – Potential investment by 2040

  • Country leaders are calling for a price on carbon, which would motivate industries and businesses to minimize emissions. Right now it is unclear if global carbon pricing is going to be a part of the agreement. LA Times discusses in detail why carbon pricing is important.
  • Open book with hand drawn landscape on wooden deckWhether or not COP21 leads to a global agreement, it marks the potential for increased emissions management. Scientists are hopeful that as a result of the Paris conference we will soon see upwards of $30 trillion invested into new technology and renewable energy by 2040. The Telegraph explains how COP21 may bring an end to the fossil-fuel era.
  • Whether or not the final agreement will be legally-binding is uncertain, but the results are expected to have the same power that will be adhered to as each country transposes the targets into its own law. Learn more about the USA and EU positions on this issue.

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