Tuesday, October 27, 2015

PhD Researchers Engage with Young European Environmentalists on COP21

In light of the crucial climate change talks in Paris (COP21) this December, PhD students Darren Clarke and Padraig Flattery were invited to address a group of young environmentalists from across Europe. The event was held as part of the ECO-UNESCO Transnational Youth Forum: ‘What’s so hot about climate change? Road to Paris 2015’. 

@DarrenClarke in action
Those attending were given a run-down of the most high-profile climate change talks of the past 20 years, from Kyoto in 1997 to Durban in 2012. The positive aspects (forming international agreements) and negative aspects (not sticking to international agreements) were highlighted to contextualise what might be expected in Paris next month.  

In the run-up to Paris, many countries have submitted 'Intended Nationally Determined Contributions' (INDCs) which outline their pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep the average global temperature increase below 2°C, recognised as a 'safe' level of climate change.

@PadraigFlattery talks to students

Amongst the most notable pledges is the EU which has committed to at least a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, the USA which has committed to a 26-28% cut by 2025 compared to 2005 levels, and China which has agreed to peak its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. 

The major polluters (India, China, EU, USA) have all submitted INDCs but as Figure 1 shows the rest of the world would need to produce zero greenhouse gas emissions to stay within the 2°C target.

Fig. 1: Projected global emissions and the 2°C pathway (black line).
Source: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/10/10/105004/meta

Whatever agreement is reached in Paris (if any) won't come into force until 2020. In the meantime, many countries are not bound to any greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. 

Whether the political will to do something meaningful in Paris is there or not remains to be seen. If the climate change talks in the past are anything to go by, will we have yet another agreement made out of hot air?

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