What is COP21?

COP (Conference of Parties) is an annual meeting of United Nations members that are part of the UN Framework on Climate Change. This is the twenty-first meeting (thus COP21) after the first one in Berlin in 1995. The essential idea of these climate conferences is to figure out a way that all nations will agree to, which will effectively combat a growing issue of our time: climate change. Some of the previous COPs, such as COP3 in Kyoto and COP11 in Montreal have led to global agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol or the Montreal Action Plan.Others, such as COP15 in Copenhagen, have not achieved the same level of success.

COP21, now, has a very obvious goal: to achieve a legally binding agreement in which all nations would want to take part. Such an agreement would need to keep global warming below what is usually seen as the critical temperature of +2 degrees Celsius. The reason COP21 is so important is because it happens at a turning point in human history- five years before the Kyoto Protocol expires, and thirty-five years before a complete move to renewable energies would need to take place if we are to prevent catastrophic consequences.

Because COP21 has a clear goal, and because its significance is obvious to most world leaders, it represents a great opportunity for everyone that plans to continue inhabiting this planet for the next couple of decades. Expectations are high, and there are many ways in which the conference can go wrong; nonetheless, COP21 represents an incredibly important point in our lifetimes, one that can change (hopefully for the better) our futures.

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