Later this year, leaders from around the world will gather in Paris, France for the UN Climate Summit— a meeting we hope will produce a concrete agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Past that number, scientists predict that the effects of climate change (which we are already experiencing) will spin out beyond our ability to stop.
Now, UN negotiators have released the first draft of the text that will eventually be turned into the Paris climate deal. Clocking in at a whopping 86 pages, the document represents a broad, and even contradictory, spread of perspectives— not surprising given the complexity of the issue and the challenge of getting all the UN countries in agreement. The document is a start to a 10-month long process, one that will be tasked with winnowing this first draft into a much shorter text.
“It’s going to be a really long and winding road to Paris,” says Ben & Jerry’s Social Mission Activism Manager Chris Miller, “but this is an encouraging first step.”
Language around the long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuel emissions was in the mix. That’s good, because language that isn’t in the first draft most likely wouldn’t show up later. But, the bulk of the work for UN negotiators lies ahead— between here and December, much of the first draft will be edited and deleted as key issues are hammered into an accord that yields a broad consensus.
“Now,” says Miller, “people that care about this issue have to continue to put pressure on negotiators and policy makers to ensure this sort of language remains in the text.”
One of the biggest stakes in reaching an agreement will be deciding how much each country will reduce their emissions. The historically divisive debate over whether rich countries should reduce more than developing countries led to stalled out negotiations at the last major UN Climate Summit in 2009. Expectations are high for 2015, the first time that all UN countries are agreeing to commit to greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, and we’re already getting a preview of what’s coming up next.
Switzerland has submitted the first climate deal pledge, cutting GHG emissions by 50% by 2030, and the EU submitted the second, cutting GHG emissions by “at least” 40% by 2030. More of these “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” are expected to follow throughout the next few months. Soon, we’ll be able to begin adding up the commitments to see if we’re on track to keep the planet from warming up more than 2 degrees Celcius.
“This is when all of us as citizens will have the opportunity to make our voice heard,” says Miller. “We need to ensure that these commitments are truly meaningful.”
The Road to Paris is just starting. Check back to see the latest on what we’re hoping will be global progress to a landmark agreement on climate change.