Next week one of the world’s biggest and most important diplomatic events will take place. But what is the UNFCCC COP21 and why should we care?

Understanding the Acronyms

UNFCCC stands for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this refers to the selection of leaders from 195 nations and the European Union who have come together with the aim of reducing the impact of human actions upon the Earth’s climate system.

The Conference of Parties (COP) is the leading body of the international convention. COP21 is the 21st annual gathering for the UNFCCC leaders and is to be held in Paris, 30 November – 11 December 2015.

Sunrise in Pari

Another important acronym that often pops up in relation to these climate negotiations is the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the group of scientists that produce the important scientific reports that support the UNFCCC. The IPCC reports are not original research but rather an assessment on the published peer-reviewed literature produced by scientists worldwide.

World leaders at a previous Climate Change Summit

The Aims of COP21

Each COP summit is an immense global conference whose aim is to produce a multilateral environmental agreement, such as the Montreal Protocol, which was on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer.

It is a big year for the UNFCCC as the aim of the 21st COP is:

‘to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.’

To achieve this goal, a successful agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must be made to keep global warming below the critical threshold of 2˚C of warming since the Industrial Revolution. According to the latest IPCC report (released in 2014) the planet has already warmed by ~0.85˚C * and the gases we have already emitted into the atmosphere will guarantee us a warming of 2˚C.

Why should we care?

Climate change is impacting us all and the outcome of the Paris climate conference will be critical in taking action against man-made climate change. As the world gets warmer, the world is being badly affected; ecosystems are failing, fresh water resources are becoming scarce and food and drink (including chocolate, beer and coffee) supplies are under threat. Other major impacts of climate change are causing ice sheets to melt and leading to a rise in sea level, which won’t just impact small low-lying islands but many cities worldwide.

For more information on the Impacts of Climate Change:

  • The consequences of climate change by NASA

For more information on COP21:

  • Videos and Infographics from it! 
  • The Guardian is covering relevant worldwide news on Climate Change

* A recent release by the UK Met Office indicates by the end of 2015 we will surpass the 1˚C milestone of warming since the industrial revolution