As we enter into a new year, the countries of the world will be tasked with the ambitious goal of following through on their commitments to mitigate climate change.
The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) was a United Nations Climate Change Conference that brought together 196 nations from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, 2015.
The goal of the conference was to produce a binding international agreement on climate change that would keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
This number has been a buzzword in the scientific media because global temperature rising above 2 C from what was observed during pre-industrial times would lead to serious repercussions, including an increase in the number of extreme climate events observed.
Climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050, and that carbon must be phased out by the end of the century in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Nations who were signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change were asked to publish their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC).
This treaty laid the groundwork for the annual meetings that has convened since the mid-1990s to discuss how to achieve the treaty’s objectives to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.
The INDC is a document that sets forth each country’s targets on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the anticipated policies and measures that would be in place by the 2025-2030 timeframe towards mitigating climate change.
This document is drafted based on what each country deems appropriate with regard to their respective national priorities and capabilities in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
The targets of each country vary in terms of scope and ambition.
These reports are generally considered an accurate assessment of the carbon footprint of many countries, although some countries need to make adjustments to the document by November 2016 in order to better reflect reality.
The European Union, United States, China, as well as many other developed and developing nations each put forth noticeable commitments to the fight against climate change in their respective INDC plans and at the conference.
When evaluated together, the INDC’s of the 187 nations who published them, would prevent warming above 2.7 degrees Celsius.
The central question was whether the established goal of a $100 billion climate fund in order to help developing nations’ transitions to a clean energy economy should be incorporated into the binding agreement.
Even though these decisions and agreements were not the desired results that environmentalist and scientists had hoped for, the conference did bring attention to the issue of climate change so much so that it reminded Union of its own commitments as a campus.
The Kelly Adirondack Center sent a delegation including Sustainability Coordinator, Meghan Haley Quigley to the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit at the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, NY this past fall.
From this conference emerged an on-campus working group on campus to update the College’s Climate Action Plan, which was last drafted in 2010. This plan outlines the college’s environmental initiatives.
This project is being taken on in hopes of reaching a campus goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions through a more vigorous action plan that would complement the steps the college has already taken over the past five years.
The Sustainability Office is still looking for more environmentally conscious students to join the team.
If you’re interested in the future of Union’s environmental policy on campus, please contact Meghan Haley-Quigley at [email protected]