Last weekend, the international climate change talks taking place in Paris resulted in an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
US President Barack Obama described the deal reached last Saturday by the 195 nations represented at the talks as "the best chance we have to save the one planet we have." Our planet isn't really in danger, but climate change is certainly dangerous to the people, animals and plants living on its surface. However, the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) has achieved far more than any of the previous global meetings on climate change.
Under the Paris Agreement, the world will aim:-
- To reach a peak of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and to achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. In other words, in the years after 2050, we should not be burning more fossil fuels and other sources of greenhouse gas than can be absorbed naturally by forests, oceans etc.
- To aim to keep any global average temperature increase to within 1.5C of pre-Industrial levels (a tough target, given that in 2015, global average temperatures are likely to reach 1C above pre-Industrial levels for the first time) and to ensure that increases are kept well below 2C.
- To review progress every five years
- To provide $100 billion per year from 2020 to help developing countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions and to compensate them for climate-change related losses.
The fact that the world's leaders have finally agreed that we need to act and that a clear path towards a low-carbon future has now been mapped out is a massive achievement. It has taken 23 years of talking, but COP21 has given the people of the world a vision of the future. A future in which we all unite to curb the damage we are doing to our planet's ability to regulate its climate. There is a very long way to go - much of the Paris Agreement is not yet legally binding - but we can now have hope that change (other than climate change!) is going to happen.