By ENVIRONMENT REPORTER SARA PHILLIPS.
The United Nations climate meeting in Paris from November 30 to December 11 is possibly the last chance the world will have to create an international treaty to prevent dangerous climate change.
Temperatures are a whole degree above the long-term average and scientists predict more warming unless the world acts to limit fossil fuel use and forest clearing.
Climate change has the potential to affect all of humanity as well as countless plants and animals the world over.
Here is everything you need to know about the Paris climate talks:
In 1992, a new global treaty was drawn up at a United Nations meeting in Rio de Janeiro to try to address climate change. It became known by the not-very-catchy name of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC.
Since then countries which signed up to the convention (which is almost the whole world) have met regularly. This meeting in Paris is the 21st Conference of the Parties, making it COP21. Much like any 21st, there will be many long, rambling speeches.
Why are they meeting in Paris?
The location for the COP moves around each year. In 1997 it was in Kyoto, where the famous Kyoto Protocol was written up. In 2009 it was in Copenhagen, a meeting which ended in anti-climax. It was decided two years ago in Warsaw that the 2015 COP21 meeting would be in Paris. Country representatives also have smaller meetings all throughout the year mostly in Bonn, Germany.
Next year it will likely be held in Morocco. In 2017 COP23 will be held somewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. We hear Australia’s lovely this time of year.
What will they be doing?
The reason for the meeting is to try to agree on the text of a new international treaty. The text has already been drafted and discussed, with points of contention marked in square brackets.
Nations will make their cases for which of the square bracket options they think should stay.
Countries will also discuss related matters such as forests and funding for poorer countries to deal with climate change.
How does it work?
The UNFCCC is an umbrella term for a whole family of committees, working groups, and assorted official bodies. In addition to the plenary session of official national delegations working on the treaty text, many of these other bodies will hold meetings at the Paris gathering.
All of them are working towards the common goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions to prevent climate change from getting out of hand. Trying to get 196 countries to agree to anything makes the process slow going.
What’s the deal with the Kyoto Protocol?
In 1997 the world signed the Kyoto Protocol which asked countries to limit their emissions but only developed countries needed to do any of the heavy lifting. It gained legal force when Russia ratified it in 2005.
It’s never been a trouble-free treaty. Some countries even walked away from it before it was due to expire in 2012. But in the absence of anything else, it’s been extended to 2020. The real work of Paris is to come up with new text ultimately to replace the troubled Kyoto Protocol.