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Understand COP21 in 5 minutes

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If the expression "COP21" has flourished abundantly in the media in recent months, its real meaning still escapes the less informed. "COP" is the abbreviation of the "Conference of Parties", whose 195 member states signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the RIO summit in 1992. Twenty "COPs" were held. thus unfolded since; the Paris Conference from November 30 to December 11 will be the 21 st , hence the expression of COP21.

As its title suggests, COP21 is far from being the first international meeting to try to curb climate degradation. Even before the Rio summit in 1992, international discussions on the environment had been taking place for twenty years, initiated by the Stockholm Conference in 1972. The last summit to date with strong media resonance dates back to 2009 with the Copenhagen Conference (COP15 ). Already presented at the time as the last chance to save the situation, this COP15 unfortunately did not lead to a concrete action plan. Faced with obvious threats to the climate, COP21 could well this time really be the very last hope for the planet.

Global warming, a reality

If the causes are not yet unanimous, the conclusion is there: since the beginning of the 20 th century, the planet is warming. This has certainly alternated periods of glaciation and warming since its origin, but human action (massive greenhouse gas emissions linked to industrial revolutions) seems almost undeniable. Between 1880 and 2012, the average temperature of the planet rose by 0.85 °, an increase a priori insignificant but in fact powerfully impactful, with visible and sometimes extremely spectacular results.

The melting ice is perhaps the strongest symbol of global warming. Even if the glaciers retreated back to the mid 19th century before the industrial revolution, the phenomenon took a sharp acceleration since 1995, which leaves little doubt hovering over its human origin. By 2100, glaciers like the one in Antarctica may have simply disappeared. As a result in part direct, the level of the oceans is increasing worldwide by 3.2 mm per year. Natural disasters and heat waves are other syndromes of this warming. If nothing is done to halt its progression, by the end of the century the effects would be quite catastrophic on the planet.

The objectives of COP 21

Limiting global warming is precisely the main objective of this COP21. To consider the Paris Conference a success, an agreement must be signed by the 196 states to limit global warming to 2 ° until 2100.

Since the late 19th century, the latter is already almost 1 .This symbolic figure of 2 ° is the threshold "tolerable" warming, even if the visible effects with only 1 are already quite worrying. Beyond this level, the consequences could be irreversible, that is to say that even a possible subsequent reduction would not be enough to make up for the damage caused. The finding is cause for concern, since current projections show a warming of at least 5 ° until 2100, if greenhouse gas emissions continued on the current model.

The other important measure of COP21 will be to enforce what was a resolution of the Copenhagen Conference. By 2020, Member States will have to spend more than 90 billion euros per year to help developing countries fight against global warming. Indeed, the countries most involved in greenhouse gas emissions are by far the most powerful and therefore the most industrialized nations.

Reach a common agreement

This is the whole difficulty of COP21, and more generally of all international conferences: getting everyone to agree. And the difficulty promises to be extreme. In addition to the large number of participating States (195), particular interests are of course very diverse. A powerful divide exists between the northern hemisphere, powerfully industrialized, and the southern hemisphere, less developed . The emerging countries, which should benefit in 2020 from financial aid from the most industrialized countries, tend, rightly or wrongly, to blame the latter for being responsible for global warming, and thus refuse to idea of ​​self-restraint.

In fact, China, the United States, the European Union, Russia and Japan are, in order, the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. The stake of the COP21 will thus be to iron out the common differences, in the face of the unprecedented need to limit the damage. The agreement must therefore be “binding”, legally obliging the Member States to keep their commitments.

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