The climate summit in Paris ended with an agreement. But how do we ensure that the agreement is translated into action?
COP21: The climate summit in Paris ended with 195 nations agreeing to keeping global temperature increases well under 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialization averages. But will it be more than words this time?
“Yes, it will, if we continue to see the same positive development that we saw during the summit,” says Annik Magerholm Fet.
Professor Magerholm Fet is head of NTNU Sustainability, one of NTNU’s strategic research areas. She attended the Paris summit as an observer.
The atmosphere at the meeting was good, and all of the participating countries seemed willing to take action to prevent global warming. But to achieve significant results, the big economic powers have to take responsibility and do their part.
“The USA, China, India, and the EU are central,” Magerholm Fet explains.
These are the nations with the most greenhouse gas emissions, and thus the nations that will have the most significant impact on our future.
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Three main challenges
The participating nations at the summit faced three big questions, she explains:
- What is the point of no return? Is limiting global temperature increase to less than two degrees enough?
- Who should pay for the measures that need to be taken?
- How are we going to reach the goals that have been set?
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Where is the limit?
“Island states and Latin American countries specifically were very active in this part of the discussion,” Magerholm Fet says.
Low-elevation island states are especially vulnerable when it comes to global climate change, specifically rising sea levels.
“It’s about giving the next generation a sustainable future,” she says.
Participants at the summit decided to stay with the two degree limit which was first brought to the table during the Kyoto summit in 1990. At the same time, it was agreed that global temperature increase should be kept well under this limit— preferably under 1.5 degrees.
Who is going to pay?
Financing different measures has been a big part of these discussions for a long time. Is it the rich nations that should pay most, since they have polluted most, and are the largest consumers of non-sustainable industrial products? Should the polluter pay, or should it be the people who order the products causing pollution?
“A US $100 billion fund is being devoted to paying for climate change prevention measures, to start with,” Magerholm Fet says.
This is about NOK 870 billion. In 2020, the fund will be expanded significantly towards 2025.
But is US $100 billion enough?
“That is a good question,” Magerholm Fet says. She has talked to a number of representatives at the summit who think that this isn’t close to the sums required.
But it is a good beginning. Who contributes what to the fund, however, is yet to be determined.
The money will go to different climate measures, and to help nations that need help financing different parts of the shift towards a greener society.
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How will the goals be reached?
More and more people want access to limited resources. This is a problem that we have yet to find a good solution to.
“People want access to energy, food and infrastructure,” Magerholm Fet sums up. “I think that energy is the first step.”
This is an area where Norway, and specifically NTNU, can contribute.
It’s about developing green technology, using available energy resources, and expanding use of sustainable energy sources. But also getting people to actually use these technologies.
“We have the knowledge and the interdisciplinary expertise,” she says, which is important because it isn’t enough to just develop the technology.
“Understanding cultures and people, to get them to actually make use of these technologies is just as important as actually developing it,” she concludes.
NTNU has already started working on this side of the issue, arranging workshops about sustainable technology in Trondheim.
Part of the problem has been getting good numbers on the amount of emissions from different countries.
At the Paris summit, it was agreed that all participating nations will present emission numbers and plans every five years.
The world is also getting a common, global emissions quota. This is a limit on the amount of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. After the limit is set, quotas will be divided among nations.
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The agreement will be opened for ratification on April 22, 2016—Earth Day.
It has to be ratified by at least 55 nations that represent at least 55 per cent of global emissions to have an impact. The goal is to have the agreement in place by the end of May.