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COP23: UN Climate Change Conference 2017

What is COP23?

COP23 is the 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was first adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which marked the international community’s first effort to confront the problem of climate change. This convention established a framework to help stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Almost all of the world’s nations - 195 to be exact - have signed onto the agreement.

Each year, the parties to the agreement convene to assess progress in implementing the convention. This year, COP23 took place at the headquarters of the UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn, Germany, from November 6 to November 17. It was led by the Government of Fiji.

What is Sustainable Development Goal 13?

Sustainable Development Goal 13 calls for action to combat climate change and its negative impacts. It is intrinsically linked to all 16 of the development goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2015, countries adopted the Paris agreement at COP21 to limit global temperature rise to below 2°C.

Why is COP23 important?

Climate change is significantly increasing the likelihood of extreme weather, from droughts to floods. Without sharp cuts to global carbon emissions, we can expect severe and irreversible impacts for billions of individuals around the world. The Paris agreement at COP21 delivered the first global deal to tackle climate change. National action needs to occur in order to meet the goal of keeping global temperature rise below 2°C.

The extreme weather which occurred this year – from floods in India and Nigeria to hurricanes in the Caribbean and the United States – indicates that global emissions need to start falling greatly in the years to come. COP23 was essential in building the rules that will enable the Paris deal to work.

How was COP23 different?

Conferences of the Parties are always run by a designated nation. For the first time, a small island nation, among the most at risk from rising sea levels and extreme storms that climate change is bringing, ran the conference. Fiji suffered damages of over $1 billion after Cyclone Winston in 2016. The convention focused on the issue of compensation for climate change and prevention of its devastating effects. The summit was held in Germany for convenience.

What were the key points of tension?

The key points of tension at COP23 were over the issue of “loss and damage,” the idea that developing nations should be compensated for destruction resulting from climate change that they did little or nothing to cause. Some developing nations felt that they lost out in the Paris agreement. Unlike previous agreements, it did not impose legally binding commitments on rich nations.

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