On 12th December 2015, representatives from 195 countries adopted an historic agreement designed to meet the challenge of global climate change at COP21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. Driven by the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, participants overcame numerous challenges to achieve consensus on a post-2020 framework to replace the Kyoto Protocol. The question on everyone’s mind in the aftermath of the Paris agreement is how will the global community achieve the ambitious targets agreed? After all, without such achievement, the agreement is worthless.
This is a hugely complex issue, requiring a whole plethora of actions – policies will need to be changed; economies will be transformed; businesses will need to rethink processes and priorities and huge investment in new technologies will be required. At the Paris conference, leaders of Pacific island nations issued impassioned calls for action to meet the threat of rising sea levels. In the end, a long-term global goal of limiting the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius was agreed. Analysis shows that the targets for greenhouse gas emission cuts established under the Kyoto Protocol have already been surpassed by a considerable degree. All stakeholders must now come together to build on this achievement in order to effectively combat global warming.
It is important to remember that the greenhouse gas reduction target adopted in the Paris agreement is not legally binding. With decisions relating to the measures to be taken left to individual nations, the path to significant reduction could prove to be difficult. That said, the shared concern and empathetic openness to the suffering of others holds the key to building genuine international cooperation focused on the common interest of humanity.
The most important factor for success is people. In each case, it will take just a few dedicated individuals to make the difference. If key people see the opportunities and believe in their importance, they will push for change but if they do not, progress could be blocked. People have the innate ability to work together to fight against threats and to collectively create a positive and productive future. The capability to make such changes needs to be developed at national and governmental levels. With widespread public support, those in authority will be empowered to build the best possible future on a global scale.
Inspiring people at the grass-roots level, with the emphasis on the potential transformation in the immediate surroundings resulting from their action, will provide the foundation required if success is to be achieved. This foundation is critical if there is to be triumph in combating global warming and beyond that, creating a sustainable global society. The empowerment of communities is essential to the global drive to halt or even reverse global warming that started with COP21 and which will continue far into the future.