What are the aims of the Paris climate talks?

Earth’s climate has been constantly changing over time. Today, the global average temperature is 15°C, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.

COP21 is the 21st conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is taking place in Paris on 30 November – 11 Dec, and will feature representatives from 195 countries, including the UK.

Although the details will be decided at the event, the Paris negotiation hopes to secure two main agreements to battle and eventually defeat climate change. Firstly, a new deal on global emissions that will limit the release of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Secondly, and perhaps more ambitiously, the conference aims to change the nature of how we do business on this planet; how we produce, how we farm, how we make things and how we consume. This is a long-term goal, as they want to change the very nature of progress. If they manage to succeed, it could well be one of the most significant deals ever achieved at any round table, probably since Yalta – but hopefully with more positive results.

If the conference is successful, greenhouse gas (negative emissions) will be reduced globally. These negative emissions along with energy and increasing temperatures are adding to the natural greenhouse effect, the main cause of global warming.  Beginning in the industrial revolution era, most of the warming is a result of environmentally damaging human activities such as burning fossil fuels and cutting down forests.

Critics of the talks say this is all too little too late. In the western world, major changes in both regulation and lifestyle will be needed to achieve the new goals, while low-income countries may bear the brunt of the changes and face hindered development and further hardship. Developed countries are mostly responsible for climate change, and some believe it is unfair to put the restraints on other countries.

Most countries put forward the sentiment that economic growth and addressing climate change are compatible goals, but this is in dispute by both environmentalists and scientists.  Whatever the result, these talks will be remembered as a pivotal moment in climate change politics.

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