Sunday, November 29, 2015

Have Questions About Next Week's Climate Talks?  Here Are 8 Answers that Might Help.

Women participate in a rally for climate change awareness in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015.000000 (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
What is happening in Paris next week?
Diplomats from more than 190 countries will gather on an airfield in Le Bourget, just outside the French capital, to negotiate a new international agreement on climate change through the United Nations.  About 20,000 people, including business leaders, environmental activists and journalists, have been accredited to attend the proceedings, and the talks will draw an estimated 20,000 more to Paris for a series of clean energy and other events happening on the sidelines.

President Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be among the heads of state joining French President Fran├žois Hollande to kick off the opening day ceremony on Monday.  They and others are expected to call for an ambitious deal that will avoid a dangerous rise in global average temperatures.

Why is this important?
Scientists say getting a global deal now is critical to the planet.  A 2-degree-Celsius temperature difference doesn't sound like much -- hardly enough to affect whether or not you wear short sleeves.  But on a global scale, it's big.  According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if temperatures rise more than 2 degrees above preindustrial levels, it could lead to catastrophic and irreversible impacts.  Currently, the world is on a trajectory for a rise of nearly 5 degrees.  To put that in perspective, a 5-degree difference would be the difference in temperature between the ice age and the modern era.

Politically, Paris could be the last best chance to nail down an agreement.  Few leaders are willing to discuss the possibility of failure so close to the talks, but U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said as much last year.
How much money are countries asking for?  And who will pay?
Developing countries say they need much more assistance than they are currently receiving.

What is Congress' role here? Can Republicans block a Paris agreement?
The consensus among lawmakers and legal experts alike is that opponents of a climate deal in Congress cannot block an agreement in Paris.  But that doesn't mean they can't make things difficult.

Will the agreement be legally binding or not?
Many small and vulnerable developing countries are pushing for a full-blown treaty, as is Europe -- at least in public.  Behind the scenes, though, many Europeans say they are confident of coming to a deal.

What's the level of optimism right now?
Pretty high.  The climate talks are coming on the heels of devastating terrorist attacks in Paris, and that seems to have strengthened the resolve of many leaders to both attend the talks and ensure they are successful.

Read more at Have Questions About Next Week's Climate Talks?  Here Are 8 Answers that Might Help.

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