World leaders from 21 countries that comprise the COP21 are meeting in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in order to make progress in the global fight against climate change. The stakes for these climate talks couldn’t be higher with 2014 having the highest temperatures since recordkeeping began in 1880 and with rapidly rising ocean levels. Despite the almost irrefutable evidence that climate change presents a significant and immediate threat to the wellbeing of the planet, lawmakers in the United States and abroad still seem reluctant to reach a consensus on a uniform plan of action. Republican lawmakers are staunchly refusing to approve any sort of binding agreement that comes out of the Paris talks and have recently passed two bills aimed at gutting President Obama’s carbon-emission cutbacks. In order to make a true impact in reducing global temperatures, the participating members in the Paris talks must come to a binding resolution on cutting emissions, financing developing countries and creating long-term climate goals.
One of the most heated topics of discussion in Paris involves developed countries financing third-world nations so they can begin to embrace clean energy practices. During the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, richer nations agreed to pitch in $100 billion to developing countries in order for them to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels as their economies grow. Solidifying these commitments and determining how developing nations use these funds must be a centerpiece of the Paris talks if clean energy is to become the standard worldwide. Chinese President Xi Jinping is already calling on rich countries to increase their contributions to developing nations, something his colleagues seem reluctant to pursue due to domestic
While climate financing for developing nations is an essential step toward stemming the effects of climate change, it is important to remember that the three largest greenhouse gas polluters are all wealthy nations — China, the United States and Russia. In order to keep temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius, all nations must accept and be held accountable for substantially cutting their carbon emissions. It is also the responsibility of the global superpowers to lead the world in investments in their clean energy industries to help lessen the grip that fossil fuels have on energy consumption. Despite contentious debate on a host of issues, it is heartening to see the Paris talks continuing in a positive direction unlike the 2009 Copenhagen agreement, which deteriorated in 11 days. Faced with such a grave and immediate threat to the wellbeing of our planet, we all expect our world leaders to set aside their differences and political considerations and work towards a solution that we desperately need.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, December 7 print edition. Email Anand Balaji at [email protected]