Fadhila El Discha
MSc Candidate of Sustainable Energy Technology
Delft University of Technology
Kajian & Gerakan PPI Belanda
What is COP21?
The COP or Conference of the Parties is the annual agenda of United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was born as the result of Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Currently consisted of 196 country members, the convention functions to initiate and promote global actions aimed at maintaining the greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will avoid dangerous human interference with the climate system. The annual COP is established as the platform where the Convention’s targets and implementation are reviewed. Issues such as the tangible actions and the role of developed and developing countries are the main topics being addressed in these summits.
Why do we need international agreement on climate change?
The scientists have studied and concluded that with temperature rise of 20C more than the pre-industrial level, the changes on earth and nature will be catastrophic and irreversible. The impacts are in different forms in different parts of the world, including prolonged drought, wildfires in forest and dry areas, water shortage, sea level rise by nearly a meter by 2100, heavy precipitations and flooding. Even to date, these disasters already forged heated tension between countries to compete between resources and land occupation. Therefore the urgency and importance of global tangible actions to combat climate change is beyond question.
In order to limit the temperature rise within 20C threshold, we are introduced to a system called carbon budget that defines the amount of CO2 that we can still emit. The international scientific community estimates this budget to be already spent by 52% in 2011. If the current emission rate remains unabated, we ‘only’ have 30 years until 2045 before the carbon budget is used up and the associated negative impacts with global temperature rise are exacerbated. When other GHG than CO2 are taken into account, the carbon budget we have spent is even larger than 50% which results to less than two decades time span before we reach 20C temperature rise.
So, where we are now with the global climate change treaty?
The first and only legally binding international climate treaty, Kyoto Protocol, was set up on COP3 in 1997. The agreement envisions a worldwide cuts in emission by 5% compared with the 1990 levels by 2012, by allocating specific emission target on developed countries. On the other side, developing countries including China, South Korea, Mexico, and other nations with emerging economy were not given any specific target and were allowed to increase their emission. Unfortunately, the then US congressional system halted the ratification of the Kyoto targets. With the exclusion of US participation as the then world’s biggest emitter, the requirement of at least 55% countries representing the global emission for Kyoto Protocol to come into force was not met. Finally in 2004, Russia decided to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which made up the weight needed for the treaty to be legally binding. However by the course of time, none of the countries that was not succeed to meet the emission target under Kyoto Protocol was sanctioned.
The following act was COP15 in Copenhagen, which is considered fail to produce a fully articulated and legally binding treaty to limit the global temperature rise within 20C. Nevertheless, the world’s developed and developing countries were united for the first time towards a single goal to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, a big faith is put on the COP21 in Paris to be able to establish a legally binding commitment from all participating countries, which made up 98% of the global emission.
What is different with COP21?
Recognizing the institutional barriers of the Kyoto Protocol framework, the COP21 establishes the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) system in which the member countries outlined their post 2020 action plans and targets to reduce the GHG emissions. With allowing each country to set up its own target based on national conditions and capabilities, more optimistic global commitment and participation are expected. The world’s today giant emitters – US, China, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia and EU – showed their commitment by submitting their INDC. The developed countries mostly outlined their emission reduction as relative to certain year level, while developing countries mostly define the reduction target based on the business as usual trajectory. The US will cut its emission by 25-28% in 2025 compared with the 2005 levels, the EU commit to reduce their emission by 40% compared with 1990 levels by 2030, China agrees that their emission will peak by 2030, Indonesia promises to cut carbon emission by 29% compared with the business as usual level by 2030 with a conditional 41% target given international climate finances are provided.
Various NGO’s and think tanks have analyzed the global implications of these INDC’s: they estimated temperature rise between 2.70C to 3.50C, vary due to different assumptions taken. This indicates the current INDC’s proposed by UNFCC member countries are still insufficient to address the climate change. Therefore the upcoming COP summits should be able to bring about more stringent emission reduction targets beyond 2030. Furthermore, it is indisputable for the COP21 to result on a legally binding agreement to ensure the countries are fulfilling their INDC towards the right direction for climate change abatement.
What can we do to participate?
The climate change agreement in Paris would merely result in significant impacts, if there were lack of support and integration between the government, private industries, and of course us as the citizen. The citizen participation in incremental level could lead to significant augmented results: if we would reduce using personal vehicle and using public transport or bicycle in daily basis, opt for locally produced goods and services to reduce the long logistic supply chain, use less plastic products, etc. Beyond these individual contributions, we could also urge and support the government program on implementing sustainable power production, sustainable way of living, smart cities, etc.
Furthermore in Indonesia case, more than 50% of our annual CO2 emission comes from deforestation and land-use change. Looking back several months on the severity of forest fire in Sumatra and Kalimantan that were triggered by the expansion of palm trees plantation, we should already comprehend the scale of climate change impacts on Indonesian environment. Therefore we could also take action by helping the palm tree farmer to acquire better farming skills, use better quality seeds and cultivation methods, as well as supporting the government on taking the necessary actions to eliminate forest firing.
Whatever role you hold: as students, young professionals, teachers, engineers, researchers, entrepreneurs, politicians, and members of the community; make sure you make your contribution! Start small, and start now J
PS: Check out the following links to get inspired on how to take part on the climate change combat!
- http://www.winnovating.com/tri-mumpuni-winnovating-micro-hydro-power/ and https://www.ashoka.org/node/3870