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COP21 is on!

Flickr: Takver

After the attacks in Paris, many were worried that the historic climate change conference would be postponed. Or that protecting the environment as a global issue would be dismissed. But Paris did not let the attacks deter the city from showing support for the climate (check out photos of the climate marches around the globe here). Nor did the attacks stop Paris from hosting 40,000 world leaders, members of civil society, and diplomats to discuss climate change. In fact, the 21st session of the Conference to the Parties on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aka COP21 kicked off on November 30th--and here’s what you need to know.

The overall goal of COP21 as stated by the UNFCCC is “to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human induced) interference with the climate system."

It’s really all about “creating a universally recognized and legally binding agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.”

As Mariano Rajoy Brey, President of Spain made clear again:

The UNFCCC calls for developed industrialized countries to lead the way. Which makes sense since developed countries continue to produce the most greenhouse gases that lead to globally-felt effects such as sea-level increase, global temperature change, and environmental damage and pollution. The conference also gives amplifies the voices of many small island nations that already face serious threat from climate change.

A major dilemma facing the conference is: how do you balance economic growth with sustainability? As developing countries continue to grow, they'll need to limit greenhouse gas emissions. And many of them view this as unfair, because they played almost no role in instigating climate change, but are being asked to bear an equal part of the burden for addressing it. So they're asking for significant help from developed countries--in terms of funding and technology--to make the shift to clean energy. 

Voices from over 195 countries will be heard over the 2 weeks of COP21. 

Many world leaders including US President Obama to Prince Charles began the conference by saying that acting on climate change will not seem immediately beneficial, but is essential for securing a safe future.

And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made the connection that if the world does not adopt action against climate change, poverty cannot be ended. Global Goal 13 speaks to this specifically, and nearly all the Global Goals incorporate aspects of the connection between climate change and poverty.

Many of the world’s most vulnerable people already face challenges and threats from climate change. Poverty is highest in developing countries that need support to be able to grow their economies sustainably. And leadership from developed countries is imperative. The Kyoto Protocol tried to promote this leadership, failed. There’s hope for a different outcome this year.

COP21 has so far produced commitments from both China and the US, the two biggest polluters in the world. 

What else in on the agenda for the rest of COP21?

There are various “High-level side events” that range from a media event on carbon pricing hosted by the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde to the launch of the International Solar Alliance hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After some of the 150 Heads of State give their addresses, discussions will become more focused. Topics will range from forests and agriculture to renewable energy and energy efficiency and access, all of which can be found in the COP21 schedule found here.

Also not to be missed...Twitter has emojis for COP21.

Taking action to limit carbon emissions and combat global warming can prevent further damage to all environments, especially vulnerable ecosystems and it’s great to see world leaders supporting this early on in COP21.

World leaders have declared their concerns about the dire need to come to a decision on climate change in the next two weeks. The final decision adopted by the 195 countries in the UN at the end of COP21 on Dec. 11 will shape the future. The talks are off to a strong start, but it will ultimately come down to the decisions made throughout the week and final adoption of the Paris agreement.

You can go to TAKE ACTION NOW to support the Global Goals to help create a sustainable future and end poverty.