UN Climate Change Conference: Key points

As nations around the world gathered for the UN Climate Change Conference in Berlin this week, the process of charting a path forward to address climate change was again played out in a lead-up…

UN Climate Change Conference: Key points

As nations around the world gathered for the UN Climate Change Conference in Berlin this week, the process of charting a path forward to address climate change was again played out in a lead-up full of uncertainty.

The underlying effort is to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C this century compared to the pre-industrial era. The challenge is that, for some, progress has been halting. Climate change is the main factor in the ongoing human and social catastrophe. It is a threat that undermines the chances of a livable future for our children and grandchildren.

U.S. President Donald Trump, an ardent climate denier, said this week that all questions related to climate change should be put aside and that they “should just get over it.”

He has shown no interest in reversing course. The Paris Climate Agreement will continue to be in effect, and the U.S. plans to exit altogether by 2020.

The business community, with corporations committed to climate action, has adopted a strategy of pushing back. Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Environment Director Janet Flannery said in a statement “The U.S. is in the lead – U.S. companies are taking the risk and responsibility to put this issue on the world stage for a 21st century solution for a healthy future.”

Global climate change agreements are already performing. A number of nations, led by China, have pledged to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, and have resulted in a reduction in global emissions.

The U.S. is a leader in global emissions of carbon dioxide, contributing about 14 percent of total emissions by some estimates.

This was the sixth climate change conference held under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference established rules for conducting negotiations leading up to the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement, which came into force on November 4, 2016.

The Paris Climate Agreement was among the last climate change agreements addressed. Unlike all previous agreements, in Paris the negotiators took into account the well-being of global humanity, provided for funding for developing countries, which were largely excluded from the global climate change talks, and promised to stay on track to limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

The conference laid out implementation rules governing how countries will calculate their climate change commitments and report their progress. To date, 56 countries have ratified the agreement and 173 have submitted and committed to their climate change actions.

The US has not ratified the Paris Climate Agreement but has been a lead participant in the meetings. U.S. Climate Change Ambassador Robert Lighthizer repeated Trump’s policy that nations that continue to question the reality of climate change are setting themselves “back 100 years” when it comes to economic opportunity and security.

The conference was seen as a last chance for countries to produce a deal. Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom issued the following statement on the COP24 conference: “We will work with a strong, stable majority Government.”

One year into Brexit, there were doubts about whether she would secure a transition deal. Several countries, including Great Britain, said they would follow through on their carbon reduction commitments.

Investors committed $1.7 trillion to reduce emissions. Investment in public-sector initiatives made a meaningful contribution and helped hold down a rise in international sea levels.

The Conference of the Parties adopted the preliminary details of rules for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement. An extensive list of additional technical issues will be worked out at the next conference, COP25, that will be held in Bonn, Germany, in 2020.

A non-binding commitment to “Climate Smart Agriculture” came out of the meeting, but there are many additional details to be determined. The commitments to reduce emissions in agriculture came in the form of voluntary guidelines for national governments, but financial support will be needed to implement the commitments.

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