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Will the COP21 Succeed?

The industrialization of the modern world has unfortunately caused most of the modern world’s environmental problems. Ironically, it is, exactly, the modern rich industrialized nations that have caused most of the problems to begin with, that will play a major role at the COP21 or the 2015 Paris Climate Conference in November. The summit will try to achieve a new international agreement on climate change, amicable to all of the countries that are involved.

The ultimate goal of the COP21 summit is to keep global warming below the infamous 2°C threshold. Reaching agreement on that goal will be detrimental to actually implementing world-wide working solutions to combat the adverse effects of global climate change. The major sticking point? Developed countries have yet to agree on how to share the burden and finance the $100 billion in promised annual subsidies to ease the developing world’s transition to renewables.

The Determined French Host

France provided a huge diplomatic drive that strived to influence nations around the world, as to the immense importance of the Paris Summit. French ambassadors from around the globe spread the green gospel to the world’s consulates, concerning the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They made known their concerns over the potential positive or negative outcomes of the conference. Sylvie Bermann, the French ambassador to the UK, stated for the Guardian: “It’s a top priority for our diplomacy. All our ambassadors are fully mobilized, all around the world.”

The Two Top Players of COP21

As reported in a recent Guardian article, 50 of America’s top defense and foreign policy leaders have called upon their peers to help curb climate change. Unfortunately, American promises have a way of wavering in the political winds of time, public opinion, and social change. The true commitment from polluting U.S. industries still will remain to be seen, long after the upcoming UN climate summit is over.

China is also a major backer of a substantial world agreement on climate control at COP21, when it comes to attempting to reverse the negative global carbon-induced environmental impacts, of which China is a main offender thereof.

In its efforts to play catch-up with the West, Beijing rapidly industrialized, paying little heed to environmental concerns. For example, a recent AluWatch paper showed that China’s coal-powered aluminum industry took off unsustainably at steep environmental costs in order to quickly dominate the market. If Beijing had opted instead for hydroelectricity (like Russia or Norway) or natural gas (like Gulf countries), it would’ve grown at a slower but more environmentally friendly way.

The same tactic has been used across multiple industries, showing China’s short-term strategy to grow rapidly no matter the cost. However, as global calls for stricter controls on the production of greenhouse gases accelerate, Beijing is obviously looking to repair its wolf-in-sheep’s clothing image. An earlier report quoted China’s pledge to cut its greenhouse gases by 60 to 65 percent per unit, from its gross domestic product emissions. If implemented properly, this would put them ahead of their initial 2030 emissions target, according to Beijing. Like their best-frenemy the United States, though, the real proof will be in China’s actions, not in how many more empty PR words that they can throw at the issue of combating the continuing effects of climate change.

The Obstacles to an Agreement

The Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, Robert Stavins, stated that the potential successes and failures of the 2015 COP21 agreement, depends upon key issues like the implementation of the agreed upon rules. Meaning, monitoring, reporting, and the verification procedures to be put into place are of paramount importance. This is where the major economic super-powers, China, and the United States must politically solidify their commitments to making a deal happen in Paris. The less wealthy countries attending the summit should also be given more incentive, considering that they are the real ones with the most to lose, if a deal that turns out for them to be economically unfeasible.

The lack of experience when it comes to world climate change may also be one of the biggest obstacles to passing a clear global climate change strategy, based on provable science, and not mere idle speculation. There are few studies on past global climate changes, in which to accurately base a useful U.N. climate change framework upon. But the extensive progressive damage to the environment also speaks for itself to most nations. Hopefully this common realization will help instill a sense of urgency towards a lasting agreement.

Like it or not, all of us are currently paying the piper, both rich and poor, when it comes to the world’s past environmental abuses. Only a passionate political international call to action, akin to France’s grand promotion of COP21, will ever be able to make any real noticeable dent in climate change. The literal future of the lives of our children’s children will ultimately be affected by the monumental successes, or the potential catastrophic failures of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.