COP21 – Paris Climate Conference

30th November to 11th December 2015

Key facts for future climate 


What is COP21? And who is involved?

COP21 has involved two weeks of talks between government officials from around the world. The goals are:

  • To agree legally-binding, global targets on cutting carbon emissions to keep global warming below 2°C.
  • To therefore reduce the impacts of man-made global warming beyond 2020.
  • To discuss ways of helping developing nations to continue their development in a sustainable way.

There have been over 50,000 participants from governments, the United Nations (UN), and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). 195 countries were represented, and world leaders were present for part of the meeting. This included: Barack Obama (USA), Angela Merkel (Germany), David Cameron (UK), Xi Jinping (China), Narenda Modi (India). The official website can be accessed here.


But…I thought world leaders already met to discuss this? What was different this time?

COP21 follows 20 years of climate-related talks. The first meeting, the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, led to the implementation of the Rio Convention. This incorporated the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and was aimed at stabilising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Since then, world leaders have met every year to review progress and set new targets. These meetings are called the annual conference of parties (COP).

  • The first COP was held in 1995 in Berlin.
  • It was at COP3 in Kyoto, where the Kyoto Protocol was implemented.
  • At COP15 in Copenhagen, world leaders agreed to limit their emissions, but efforts to agree on a legally-binding treaty were unfortunately unsuccessful.
  • COP20 in 2014 was held in Lima, Peru. Delegates produced the ‘Lima call for climate action’, which paved the way for discussions in Paris.

Our current global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions expires in 2020, so it is important that we review our progress and reach a new agreement for after 2020.


Below is an interactive map of where all the previous COP summits have been.  Zoom into the green pins and click on them for some information on what was (or wasn’t..) decided there.


What are the targets for COP21?

Scientific research, published by the IPCC, has shown that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current rate, then global temperatures will rise by 5°C. It has been calculated that a temperature rise of just 2°C will cause catastrophic and irreversible damage to the environment. It is therefore important that we reach a global agreement to curb emissions enough to keep temperature rise to below 2°C.  To do this, we need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70% by 2050. Carbon neutrality (zero carbon emissions) needs to be reached by 2100.


Will we meet the goals?

Some countries have already pledged their action plans.

  • The EU will cut emissions by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
  • The USA will cut emissions by 26-28% by 2025, compared to 2005 levels.
  • China have stated that their emissions will peak by 2030.

It is anticipated that the remaining countries will now set their targets.

A key factor for the success of the Paris meeting, is that the nations with the greatest emissions (China, USA, and India) are on board.


Stay tuned to Climatica, as we review the outcomes of the meetings at the close of the conference.