Over the next two weeks, climate leaders from 190 countries will descend upon Paris in hopes of reaching new agreements on climate change. Despite failed promises from previous conferences, hope is growing that real progress in Paris can be made. However, no deal will be a panacea, and any proposed agreements will require long term commitments of resources, political will, and concrete action. Because of the inherent complexities of reaching a singular agreement, many are hopeful that the new structure of the Climate Talks will facilitate better outcomes.
What used to be a top-down approach is now driven almost entirely by local actors. In essence, each country will identify its own commitments and then submit their pledges to be drafted into the greater international climate agreement. The virtue of this approach is that the climate pledges are considered more attainable and realistic than previous climate agreement models. However, some fear that this will produce less ambitious, watered-down actions.
To abate such concerns, negotiators must identify how climate pledges will be reviewed and how states will be kept accountable. This will require the keen eye of municipal leaders, who will have to remain ever vigilant to climate commitment accountability. Over these next two weeks, local and international leaders will help to address one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Only through the boldness of leadership and the strength of their commitments will climate action lead to real improvements.
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For the next two weeks, diplomats from more than 190 countries will gather near Paris to hammer out a new international agreement on climate change. This conference, known as COP21, is getting heavily hyped: We're already seeing chatter about whether this is our last chance to "save the world" or keep us below 2°C of global warming.
But that's … the wrong way to think about what's going on in Paris. These climate talks, by themselves, won't fix global warming. They can't do that. They're not designed to do that. The actual goal is much more modest: to add structure and momentum to efforts that are already underway, in legislatures and laboratories and cities and boardrooms around the world, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
That may sound like hair-splitting, but it's a crucial distinction for understanding what these talks are all about. It's why many onlookers think a deal is vitally important, and others say it'll be a massive disappointment. Both things, in a way, are true.
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