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The COP21 Agreement targets maintaining the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,   Solutions look to deal with two parts of the climate change issues, mitigation and adaptation.

  • Mitigation deals with stopping the rise in anthropogenic (man-made) GHGs, either by reducing output (fewer GHG sources) and/or by increasing the natural uptake of CO2 (e.g. more GHG sinks).
  • Adaptation deals with the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels on coastal or island geographies, droughts, storms and floods.

These goals further strive to enhance adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the temperature goal. The concept is to promote and even incentivize a country’s ambition to develop and deploy these plans.

The goals intend to achieve realistic decreases in CO2, methane and other GHGs produced by man’s activities. Further, the changes required are seen as means of stimulate rather than stymie economic activity.

In past COP Climate Change discussions, a huge hurdle has been dealing with the needs and capabilities of the developing countries, in contrast to developed countries. To comply with the goals of COP21, less developed countries have insufficient funds and lack the technical capabilities to change to the new energy paradigms in a timely fashion. As such, the new agreement provides for funding to be pooled by the developed countries and then provided to the less developed countries. Similarly, as innovation unveils cleaner (low carbon) solutions, these technologies will be made available to all.   A precept is to reflect equity between nations with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances. This further intends to consider the capacity and ability of developing countries, in particular countries with the least capacity, such as the least developed countries, and those that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, such as small island-developing States.

Each country is further committed to internally enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, to recognize and emphasize the importance of dealing with climate change.

With these ideas, the targets are to have broad changes in all parts of the globe. Each country is charged with setting their own goals and being held accountable for the results. An ongoing accounting of GHG intends to provide accountability for these targets. The enforcement and real world impacts of this accountability are unclear at this point.

To generally assist in adapting to the anticipated increased level of climate change events, the agreement defines goals to communicate new scientific data and analysis, provide global warning systems for climate events, including extreme weather events and slow onset events. This will allow all countries to be able to better adapt to the changing climate, anticipate these events and minimize the risk of loss and damage.

To account for lessons learned in the science and the actual effects of climate change over time, the COP will regularly reassess, or take stock (“Global Stocktaking”) of the status of climate change and the impacts these changes have on climate, the agreement and specific countries.

The final form of the Agreement is to be executed by the parties between April 22, 2016 to April 21, 2017 and takes effect when at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 percent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.  For more see: COP21 website.

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