From: Mark Dwortzan, MIT News
Published November 14, 2015 07:41 AM

Will the upcoming UN Climate Change Summit in Paris kick the can down the road again?

Big hopes are riding on the 2015 United Nations climate change conference planned for Nov. 30-Dec. 11 in Paris, where more than 190 nations will strive to hammer out an international agreement aimed at lowering global temperatures through significant reductions in human-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the meeting, known as COP21, or the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is also attracting a fair amount of skepticism.

For good reason: More than two decades of UN climate summit meetings have yielded limited results. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 established GHG emissions reduction commitments for a small number of industrialized countries from 2008 to 2012, but was not ratified by the U.S. because it made no demands on developing countries. Overcoming this hurdle, the Copenhagen meeting in 2009 produced voluntary pledges from both developed and developing countries through the year 2020 that promised little headway in keeping global temperatures below the 2 degree Celsius threshold identified by the UNFCCC as necessary to avoid the most serious impacts of climate change.

Now, as some 40,000 attendees and 80 heads of state prepare to converge on Paris, the stakes are high, said Michael Mehling, executive director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) as he introduced a panel discussion, “The Paris Climate Summit: Prospects for a Global Agreement,” on Nov. 5 at MIT’s Tang Center.   

“This time around, we really know that we’ve pretty much run out of time, meaning we do not have the luxury of endless further negotiating rounds,” Mehling warned. “So in many ways, the climate summit in Paris is a make-it-or-break-it test for UN-led international climate diplomacy.”

Climate acitivists image via Shutterstock.

Read more at MIT.

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