Prelude to Paris: the climate talks are set to begin

This blog was written by Jennifer Rennicks, former Senior Director of Policy & Communications at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | November 25, 2015 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

This is the last post in our year-long climate series, “Prelude to Paris,” providing updates and analysis on climate actions and policies in the lead up to the United Nations climate change conference starting in Paris next week. Other posts in the series are available here.

Next week, leaders from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for the United Nations Climate Conference, or more specifically: the 21st annual session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Despite the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month, there have been positive developments in the lead up to these climate negotiations. Notably, many of the world’s top-polluting countries (including India, China and the United States) have already submitted climate pollution reduction goals to help drive a binding and universal agreement on climate. Earlier this summer, Pope Francis‘ encyclical Laudato si’ was released and stressed the moral imperative of “swift and unified global action” to reverse the trends of environmental degradation which include climate change. A group of 154 faith leaders followed suit in October, by issuing a proclamation urging strong action in Paris to fulfill humanity’s duty to steward creation and take care of fellow people, especially those vulnerable to climate impacts. Meanwhile, dozens of the world’s largest companies, such as Nike, Kellogg’s, and IKEA have made a business case for urging world leaders for a strong international agreement in Paris. And this fall the People’s Climate Movement organized hundreds of marches and rallies across the United States to demonstrate to leaders that a growing base of citizens support policies that will take aggressive action on climate change.

This is the first major summit on how to control carbon pollution driving climate change in more than five years, since the less-than-successful Copenhagen climate talks which SACE attended and reported from. As we approach these climate talks, it is heartening to think that we have shifted away from a world of “business as usual,” as every major country taking part in the conference has already pledged to reduce emissions with proposed goals. Furthermore, leaders in Paris will also repeat the international commitment made at Copenhagen to limit warming to 2 degrees. However, experts are warning that the pledges will still fall short of what is needed to limit warming to 2 degrees and will, in all likelihood, take us towards a 3-degree warmer world with dramatic impacts – intense heatwaves, extreme weather events, flooding and sea level rise, and climate refugees – emphasizing the importance of securing a new climate treaty to limit these impacts as much as possible.

Closer to home, there were more than two dozen People’s Climate Movement actions in October throughout the Southeast urging support for meaningful climate policies. Events took place in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Asheville, Greenville, Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, Florence, Athens, St. Augustine, Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. Some events explored the connections between flooding and extreme weather events and climate change, another sent a message from indigenous people demanding climate justice and a livable future for the next Seven Generations, while some events at college campuses promoted federal legislation to end fossil fuel extraction on public lands.

More marches will take place on November 29 as millions of citizens around the world – including hundreds in Atlanta – will take the streets to demand bold action on climate change from world leaders gathering that day to begin the climate negotiations in Paris. One of the largest actions may be the People’s Climate March & Rally in Atlanta: a peaceful yet forceful demonstration of Atlanta’s commitment to the global climate movement. SACE is proud to be a supporter of this event and encourages those living in the Atlanta area or visiting for the holiday weekend to attend and voice your support for strong climate policies at home and abroad. If you are not near any cities hosting marches, you can join in solidarity with a virtual march. Submit a photo here of yourself holding a sign or send a message of support to tell world leaders why you want bold action for the climate and use the #climatemarch hashtag.

SACE will be tracking the climate negotiations in Paris and posting updates via social media on our Twitter and Facebook accounts and via this blog, so stay tuned for information and updates in the coming weeks as we wait to see if negotiations will produce a new agreement to reduce climate pollution.

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