If Paris Climate Summit is a Turning Point, Governments Must Go Beyond Current Carbon Reduction Pledges

Posted Dec. 2, 2015

MP3 Interview with John Coequyt, director of global climate policy with the Sierra Club, conducted by Scott Harris

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With the failure of past climate summits fresh in the minds of government officials and activists, leaders of 150 nations, along with 40,000 delegates from 195 countries are participating in the United Nations climate talks that got underway in Paris on Nov. 30. Massive protests planned by climate activists for Paris have been banned by French officials in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks that killed 130 and injured 350 more.

One contentious issue that must be resolved in Paris revolves around the question of whether or not to make any agreement that's hammered out legally binding. While the European Union and many other nations favor a binding agreement, President Obama has only narrowly supported making periodic reviews of greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges legally binding, recognizing that the GOP-controlled Congress would almost certainly defeat a move to approve a fully binding new climate treaty. Another likely sticking point is the demand that industrialized nations help poorer countries that have contributed little to climate change, but are the first to suffer its effects in the form of extreme weather and rising sea levels.

Whether or not the nations gathered in Paris will achieve an agreement that limits a rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial climate is an open question. But a sobering new study published earlier this fall by the U.S.-based climate research group Climate Interactive found that even if every nation honored their announced carbon emissions reduction targets, the world would still be headed toward a 3.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of the century, an increase that scientific research predicts can lead to crop failures, food shortages and widespread plant and animal life extinctions. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with John Coequyt, global climate policy director with the Sierra Club who talks about what's at stake in the Paris Climate Summit and the role of the global climate movement in pressuring governments to take concrete urgent action to address the causes of global warming.

For more information visit the Sierra Club at sierraclub.org; ThreeFifty.org at 350.org; Greenpeace at greenpeace.org; Friends of the Earth at foe.org.

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