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19 November 2015

COP21: What’s it all about?

COP21: What’s it all about?


France will host COP21 from 30 November to 11 December. This is the 21st Conference of the Parties (countries) on climate change to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. All 196 nations are invited and it’s attended by global leaders, businesses and civil society.


The aim of the conference is to reach a new international agreement to keep global warming below two degrees, which will take effect in 2020.

It’s also a chance for developed countries to take responsibility for their impact on the environment and ensure developing countries aren’t bearing an unfair burden when it comes to the effects of climate change as well as providing these countries with the support they need to reduce their emissions. This is something Pope Francis implored earlier this year in his encyclical Laudato Sii or Praised Be, which focused on being good stewards of our environment.

Four components of the Paris Climate Alliance

1. The negotiation of a universal agreement in accordance with the Durban mandate establishing rules and mechanisms capable of gradually increasing its ambition in order to keep within the two degrees limit.

2. The presentation by all countries of their national contributions prior to COP21, in order to generate momentum and demonstrate that all states are moving forward, based on their national realities, in the same direction.

3. The financial aspect, which should enable support for developing countries and financing of the transaction towards low-carbon, resilient economies before and after 2020.

4. The strengthening of the commitments of civil society and non-governmental stakeholders and the multi-partner initiatives of the Agenda of Solutions* of Lima-Paris Action Agenda, in order to involve all stakeholders and begin concrete actions prior to the entry into force of the future agreement in 2020.


Since the Industrial Revolution the global temperature has increased by nearly one degree. This doesn’t sound like a lot but it has had a destructive impact on our climate and environment.

Ice caps continue to melt at an alarming rate. If this continues then in the next century oceans could rise as much as 95 centimetres. This could result in losing cities such as London, Bangkok, New York and Shanghai.

Bangladesh is already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change and is currently at risk of losing up to 17 per cent of its land.

We’ve seen increasingly unpredictable weather patterns in recent years and this will continue to get worst resulting in anything from flooding to severe droughts.

Climate negotiations so far

Conversations about climate change have been ongoing for a number of years with previous conferences succeeding in convincing decision makers that climate change is happening and something needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions thus controlling global temperatures.

In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Kyoto Protocol, which acknowledged the existence of human-induced climate change, was a milestone in international negotiations on tackling climate change.

For the first time, binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets were set for industrialised countries. The protocol, which entered into force in 2005, was intended to cover the period 2008-2012.

In the interval, until a legally binding multilateral agreement is implemented in 2020, the Doha Conference in Qatar in 2012 established a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (2013-2020), which was ratified by a number of developed countries.

The Climate Change Conferences in Warsaw, Poland, in 2013 and Lima, Peru, in 2014 enabled essential progress towards COP21 this year.

What can we do?

Too often we dismiss our actions and choices as being too insignificant to affect change. However small changes made by each of us all add up to have a substantial impact.

Rhythms have put together a list of easy, practical things we can all do to help our environment:

·         Buy locally

·         Don’t use disposable cups

·         Walk or cycle whenever possible

·         Stop using plastic bags

·         Don’t buy bottle water

·         Call on David Cameron to take action

We will provide more analysis once COP21 is under way.

Find out more on the COP21 website.

Image credit- Royce Bair (under CC license)