As of Oct. 19, a White House spokesman announced that a total of 81 companies have backed the U.S. and President Barack Obama's sponsored pledge supporting actions to fight climate change. Obama met with CEOs from the private sector, including Alcoa, Procter & Gamble, General Electric as well as many more, to discuss ways in which these companies can positively impact the fight against global warming.
"This progress isn't just creating a safer planet," Obama told reporters at the White House after a meeting with business leaders, according to CNBC. "It's creating jobs, it's creating business opportunities and it's something that customers are increasingly looking for."
Before the climate change conference in Paris, Obama had secured signatures from some very prominent American corporations including Bank of America, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Google and Walmart. The White House spokesman also stated that over $1.2 billion from various investors, including University of California and the Alaska Permanent Fund, could produce impactful and profitable solutions to climate change.
"This progress isn't just creating a safer planet. It's creating jobs."
Paris climate change conference
From Nov. 30 through Dec. 11, the Conference of Parties (COP21) will be held with United Nations (U.N.) officials in Paris, France. Over 40,000 people at the conference will discuss the impact cities are having on the climate change and the changes that need to be done to fix these problems.
COP21 discussions will include talks about clean energy methods, including solar and wind power, in all countries around the world (developed, developing and underdeveloped). Protection of forests, land and water resources as well as the global, financial and economic impacts of global warming will also be discussed. Negotiators representing many countries and organizations will gather for to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This will bring about the most significant international agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and slow the effects of climate change on the planet.
"The Paris UN Climate Conference represents an historic opportunity to put the world on course to meet the climate change challenge," Christina Figueres, one of the hosts at COP21 and executive secretary to the UNFCCC stated. "The world needs a new model of growth that is safe, durable and beneficial to all. COP21 seeks to deliver a clear pathway with short and long term milestones and a system to help us measure and increase progress over time until we get the job done. The Paris Agreement is not only possible, it is necessary and urgent. We are counting on everyone's contribution."
COP21 is an international meeting head up by the U.N. that solely focuses on the global threat of climate change.
In the past, climate change conferences have been top-down. Governments would agree to broad strategies, which would have regulations to reduce greenhouse emissions. However, this left very little flexibility for countries, and many of them chose not to participate or comply with the guidelines. UNFCCC is now trying a bottom-up approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which hopefully will allow each country enough flexibility to comply with its own emissions regulations.
In the last five years, scientists have conducted more research than ever proving the effects of climate change on the planet. Average temperatures reached an all-time high in 2014 and are predicted to be even higher at the end of 2015. The Paris Climate Change Convention is forcing many large developed countries like the U.S., China and Canada to reevaluate their contribution of climate change. Developing countries, such as oil-producing Saudi Arabia, have also submitted plans to the UNFCCC in the hopes to prevent the increasing and potentially unlivable temperatures in the future.
COP21 and the role of the US in fighting climate change
In 2009, the last time climate change was addressed, the U.S. did not participate in the convention. However, this time Obama wants to position the U.S. as a global leader on climate change. His goal is to reverse years of inaction and opposition by the U.S. in past climate conventions.
Obama put forth a slew of policies prior to COP21, including the Clean Power Plan, which calls for a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants by 2030. This alone will impact many types of ecosystems, including organisms living in different bodies of water. Poisonous substances in the run-off from nearby power plants as well as acidic rainfall across the country may be positively impacted by these current decisions down the road.
"There's a good understanding internationally of the path that the U.S. is now taking, that the actions are credible," said Jennifer Morgan, global director of the climate program at World Resources Institute, according to Time Magazine.
As of now, it is undetermined whether the conference will lead to a "binding" agreement. Many supporters feel that a binding agreement is the only way to force world leaders to comply with meaningful action toward climate change. However, from a political standpoint, a binding agreement would not win approval in a Republican-controlled Senate and would in turn leave the U.S. out of the agreement once again. Obama is advocating a binding agreement without labeling it a treaty.
It is unclear how the agreement will placate the European countries.
"If the deal is not legally binding, there is no accord, because that would mean it's not possible to verify or control commitments that are made," French President Francois Hollande said earlier in November, according to the Associated Press.
Overall, some of the major countries have already promised to follow through with their climate change initiatives. China has agreed to a cap and trade program and stated that its emissions will be capped by 2030. India has agreed to increase its forest coverage, and the U.S. will phase out coal power plants.
"Done right, this will set in train a set of policies and actions that would take us across a number of these positive tipping points in a way we design our cities, in the way we consume, in the way we deliver electricity, in the way we work and how we go to work," Andrew Steer, president and CEO of the World Resources Institute, said on a conference call for journalists, according to Time.