A crucial United Nations climate summit in Peru recently unfurled with delegates attempting to near a new global agreement. One hundred and ninety-five nations agreed to finalize a new climate pact in Paris by the end of 2015, with each country committing to a national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The two weeks of discussions started amid record-breaking global temperatures for the year to date, including Australia’s announcement of its hottest spring on record. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), the global average temperature over land and ocean from January to October was the hottest it’s ever been, since records began in 1880.
“2014 is threatening to be the hottest year in history and emissions continue to rise, we need to act urgently,” UN climate chief Christiana Figueres told negotiators at the conference, which took place in Lima.
“We should be able to lay the foundations for a strong agreement in Paris and raise the level of our ambitions so that gradually over the long term we are able to achieve climate neutrality – this is the only way to truly achieve sustainable development for all.”
In September, millions of people around the world marched in support of a new approach to climate change. Several days later, world leaders attended a meeting where they reaffirmed their dedication to take on the issue through a new global agreement.
In addition to the world’s changing temperament, the United Nations’ process was also recently stimulated by the joint declaration made in November by the U.S. and China to cut carbon.
During the initial meeting, the European Union agreed for climate targets by 2030, while the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF) announced it had secured over $9 billion in commitments for the cause at a recent conference in Berlin.
“Ultimately this is not a problem that can be solved by just the US, China, and the EU,” said Paul Bledsoe, senior climate fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the US.
“There’s a whole series of countries – Canada, Australia, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia – who have not made commitments (to cut emissions) and we don’t know yet how robust their commitments are.”
Another issue that needs to be resolved within the next two weeks is the scale of “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDC), BBC reports, along with what information countries should provide in their pledges. By the end of March 2015, all countries are expected to reveal the extent of their efforts to cut carbon as part of the Paris deal.
According to The New York Times, some climate researchers now say that it will be nearly impossible to prevent temperatures from rising the 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) deemed the “tipping point” before the future is filled with “drought, food and water shortages, melting ice sheets, shrinking glaciers, rising sea levels and widespread flooding.”
Temperatures have already increased at more than 1 degree Fahrenheit as emissions also continue to rise.
“This sends an important signal for the rest of the world to come forward as early as possible with their own contributions,” EU negotiator Elina Bardram said Sunday. “We have 12 months and the clock is ticking.”