Last December in Paris, more than 180 nations came together for the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2015, also known as COP21. The resulting Paris Agreement is the strongest-ever international commitment to reducing global emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning.
The Paris Agreement enters into force today, just before the November 7 start of the U.N. Climate Change Conference 2016 (COP22) in Marrakech, Morocco.
COP21 signaled that the world’s nations agree: Climate change is real and having a serious impact on our planet. COP22 takes the next step—it marks the point at which the global community begins to act.
Blueprint for a healthier planet
The Paris Agreement sets a target of capping global temperature rise at less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. It also challenges nations to pursue a more ambitious cap of 1.5 degrees Celsius, which would avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
The COP22 conference in Marrakech is where ratifying nations, both developed and developing, will drill down to the details of how to meet these targets. They’ll work to develop national implementation plans, share best practices for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and develop strategies to build financing capacity and other tools for achieving climate goals.
Human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases, including carbon dioxide, are already damaging the health of the world’s ocean—and, consequently, our own health as well. The global community made that connection at COP21; the Paris Agreement notes “the importance of ensuring the integrity of all ecosystems, including oceans…when taking action to address climate change.”
The climate-ocean relationship was a main areas of focus at the Our Ocean Conference in September 2016, hosted by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. At COP22, the ocean will play a larger role than ever before. Participants will discuss how our emissions are affecting the ocean, and how we as a global community must act—both to reduce and mitigate the impacts, and to adapt to the changes already in motion.
The Aquarium’s climate ambassador in Marrakech
This year, for the first time, Monterey Bay Aquarium will have a presence at the U.N. climate talks. Our Science Director, Dr. Kyle Van Houtan, is heading to Morocco to participate in one of the first COP panels to focus on the ocean impacts of climate change.
The negotiations are already off to a promising start. In addition to ratifying the Paris Agreement, nations have mapped out a path toward carbon-neutral growth for the international aviation industry; and made progress on a plan to reduce the use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons in air conditioners, refrigerators, and other devices.
“In the three decades that I have been working on this issue, I have never seen the kind of positive momentum that we have now,” Secretary Kerry stated. “Across the globe, leaders from the private sector, from civil society, the scientific community, the religious organizations, and governments at all levels are all together moving in the same direction…And the sooner we move to a low-carbon, no-carbon economy, the sooner we will solve this problem for future generations.”
We’ll follow developments at COP22, with dispatches from Kyle in Marrakech, on this blog. Stay tuned.
Learn more about the climate-ocean connection: www.montereybayaquarium.org/climate.
Featured image: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signs the Paris Agreement with his granddaughter in his lap. “United States Secretary of State Signs Paris Agreement on Climate Change” by UN Photo/Amanda Voisard is licensed under CC by 2.0.