COP24: What is it about?

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Welcome to my internal dialogue about climate change, the Paris Agreement and COP24.

What the bloody hell is COP24?

It’s short for the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Okay, but what is it??

It’s a conference where politicians, decision-makers, civil society organisations and even normal people come together to discuss the impacts and solutions to climate change, and try to agree on a set of policies that hopefully every nation would act upon to mitigate the disastrous environmental phenomena that are happening now and will continue to happen, which mostly affect island nations, coastal communities and the poor.

This conference happens yearly, kind of like a checkpoint to see who’s been doing well and who’s been slacking. It’s also a chance for youth to poke the people in suits, and for the people in suits to feel extremely pressured to handle finances properly, whether to spend more on green energy or feeding its people.

Of course, it’s a lot more than what I’ve just described but this is the gist of it from my understanding, at least.

Is the Paris Agreement related to this?

DUH! Even the UN climate change executive secretary dubbed COP24 as “Paris 2.0”. This conference is the moment for countries to set guidelines for efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Err… what’s the Paris Agreement again?

In 2015 when it was presented at COP21, it was just an “agreement”. Nations involved came to a consensus to agree on a legally binding plan to keep the increase in global average temperature to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, with a stretch target to limit the increase to 1.5C. This progress will be tracked by technical experts. The Agreement only came into effect in November 2016 when the “double-threshold” (ratification by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of global emissions) had been met. Currently, 184 of 195 Parties have ratified the Agreement.

What about the US and Donald Trump?

The US under president Donald Trump announced in July 2017 its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, but the US is still a Party until at least November 2020 when it can legally request to withdraw. But there are US civil society groups who condemn Trump’s decision and are still fighting against climate change.

So what’s in the Paris Agreement exactly?

A bunch of stuff that I won’t be able to explain here but you can start here to get the big picture.

Generally, it consists of a set of rules on how countries should track and report their efforts to tackle climate change, how they communicate their plans, how progress is assessed and how they will strengthen their efforts over time. Some flexibility is allowed so that developing countries can keep up to the more advanced developed countries.

An important aspect to note is there are discussions on how developed countries should support developing countries to achieve their goals, but of course, it’s not always clear-cut and most talks surround the issue of how much and the pointing of fingers to developed countries for dumping their problems on developing countries.

What do the experts/scientists say?

They basically say we’re doomed if we don’t work together and apply rigorous actions to curb climate change.

Experts are clear that with current commitments, the world would go beyond the 2C target, more like 3C of warming. Massive changes are needed to hit the more ambitious 1.5C target and to get there, countries need to get their shit together.

What do I think about all this?

I understand that it’s difficult to change what we’re used to but I believe it’s possible. What’s stopping most countries in doing what they’re supposed to do is probably financial and political interest. But we as citizens need to play our part in not only pressuring our leaders but also walking the talk ourselves.

What we as individuals can do is to use our consumer power by choosing to purchase more sustainable or long-lasting items rather than single-use plastic items, discard waste responsibly or aiming to not produce any waste, and consume 100% plant-based foods.

Our demand for a better future through our actions will surely speak volumes and change the current system. Leaders will have to listen to us eventually. It all takes each of us to do the right thing.

Featured image by REUTERS/Peter Nicholls