UN Climate Conferences: what have they achieved in 25 years?

    03 Nov 2021

    The Paris Climate Agreement had become a significant achievement of the world community in the fight against global warming over the past quarter-century. However, there are still many obstacles to achieving the objectives of the document.

    We’ve found a brilliant review on this issue written by DW.

    The UN Climate Change Conference (COP), which takes place from October 31 to November 12, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland, is the 26th in a row. The first such meeting of world leaders took place in 1995 in Berlin. Even then, it was apparent to its participants that reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere should play a decisive role in the fight against global warming. So what have politicians, scientists, and eco-activists been able to achieve in the field of climate protection in a quarter of a century?


    Paris Agreement: a milestone in the fight against climate change

    Most experts agree that progress in decision-making to combat global warming has been too slow over the years. However, one of them became genuinely epochal, namely: the adoption in 2015 by 196 countries of the world of the Paris Agreement on Climate, which consolidated the goal of not allowing the average temperature on the planet to rise by more than 1.5° C in the 21st century compared to the level of the pre-industrial era.

    As David Ryfisch, head of international climate policy research at the NGO Germanwatsch emphasized in an interview with DW, “The Paris Agreement was the starting point for a series of changes, a signal sent to the real economy and other areas that states (accepted the Paris Agreement) – serious intentions and this document will affect the whole world.”

    According to Rüfisch, the adoption of the Paris Agreement has already yielded concrete results: the cost of “clean” energy has dropped significantly, the financial sector is leaving investments in new projects related to fossil energy sources, and world countries have set a goal to abandon the use of lignite and hard coal and domestic engines combustion.


    The main problem: carbon dioxide

    Meanwhile, according to experts interviewed by DW, the main challenge today remains the search for further ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. “Carbon dioxide literally pervades every sector of the economy,” explains Charles Parker, a climate policy expert at Uppsala University in Sweden, in an interview with DW. 

    At the same time, according to the scientist, many players with the right of veto and groups of lobbyists are not interested in such development since it runs counter to their interests. For their part, UN experts warn that unless the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the world is drastically reduced, by the end of the 21st century, the average temperature on the planet will rise by 2.7° C, which will be a disaster in terms of climate.

    Another problem on the way to achieving the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement may be the fact that it does not provide for either financial or legal sanctions in the event that any of the participating countries do not fulfill the individual plan, which is updated every five years to reduce emissions.

    As noted by Rüfisch, in such a situation, only public pressure and fear of losing face can become a “sanction” for the governments of the violating countries.


    Climate Court Decisions

    Ecoactivists are encouraged, however, by several decisions taken by the national courts of some states in recent years. So, at the end of April 2021, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, having considered a claim from a group of young people and environmental organizations, ruled that the Climate Protection Law adopted in 2019 partially contradicts the Basic Law of Germany since it does not spell out details of reducing greenhouse gas emissions after 2030.

    As a result, the court ordered the German government to strengthen the fight against climate change and accelerate the pace of emission reductions. By not taking sufficient measures in this area, the state violates the rights of young people, judges in Karlsruhe found.

    And a court in the Netherlands ordered Shell to reduce its global greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2019 levels. According to David Rüfisch, this development is not least connected with the Paris Agreement.

    “I am convinced of the need for COP. Today we live in a decade that will be decisive for achieving the 1.5° С goal. Glasgow must show that 1.5° С is the last border,” the expert notes.

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