Read caption President Barack Obama speaking at the opening of COP 21 in Paris, on Monday. Photo: COP PARIS/ Benjamin Géminel.

Looking for a halt to global warming

Ane Høyem|Published 10. Dec 2015
At the Climate Change Conference in Paris, almost 150 heads of state will gather under one roof. “Our goal is a strong legally binding agreement on climate change that also includes displacement and human mobility,” says Nina M. Birkeland, NRC’s Senior Adviser on Disasters and Climate Change.

40.000 people will participate in the UN Climate Change Conference COP21 (Conference of Parties number 21), which is held in Paris, from November 30 to December 11.The goal is a strong and legally-binding agreement, from all the nations in the World, assuring the halt of global warming.

"The Norwegian Refugee Council have an important role to play in Paris too, over the next two weeks," Nina M. Birkeland explains.

“We know displacement as an effect of climate change is on the rise and that it will become unmanageable - unless we can reduce climate change, mitigate and adapt to the climate changes that are already happening.”

Listen to the Side Event from 1 December - "CLIMATE DISPLACEMENT– Voices from the Frontline".

How many people will be displaced as a result of climate change?

“The correct answer is that nobody knows, but we know the numbers will be high. Some estimate that as many as 1 billion people will be displaced, with 200 million being the most widely cited figure. However, we should not get stuck waiting for “the correct number”. Either way, it is far too many and action needs to be taken while we get more accurate figures,” Nina M. Birkeland says.

The evidence from past and recent events show that weather-related disasters have resulted in significant population displacements worldwide. Considering the impact of sudden-onset, weather-related hazards alone, a global average of at least 22.5 million people have been displaced each year from 2008 to 2014. Since 2008, close to 175 million people who live in developing countries have been displaced by disasters, according to a report by IDMC.

“Future climate change projections indicate that previously unprecedented extreme weather events may become the norm, rather than the exception. It is widely agreed that such events - in combination with other drivers of population exposure and vulnerability - will amplify the risk and challenges of displacement over the 21st century,” Birkeland says.

Why is the Climate Change Summit important to NRC?

The Norwegian Refugee Council has participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for several years already. It is a process that does not stop with Paris. However, COP21 is an important milestone as current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020. In Paris, governments are expected to produce an agreement that will be used and relevant for the following decade, and potentially beyond.

“The Paris Agreement and decisions represent a unique opportunity for Parties to the UNFCCC to prevent and reduce climate change-related displacement by encouraging and supporting the planning and implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies. This includes measures that: strengthen the resilience of climate-vulnerable people to enable them to remain where they live; support or facilitate voluntary and dignified internal and cross-border migration as an adaptation strategy and, as an option of last resort, plan for participatory and dignified relocation,” Birkeland says.

What is likely to be agreed in Paris?

States responsible for more than 90% of global emissions have now come up with their targets. These include all of the major developed and developing countries. The EU has committed to cut its emissions by 40%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2030. The US will cut its emissions by 26% to 28%, compared with 2005 levels, by 2025. China will agree that its emissions will peak by 2030. For the developing countries a range of targets including limits on emissions compared to “business as usual”, and pledges to increase low-carbon energy or preserve forests.

“Analysis shows that these pledges are enough to hold the world to about + 2.7ºC or 3ºC of warming. Unfortunately, that is not enough to meet the scientific advise, but this is not the end of the story. One of the key components of any Paris agreement would be to institute a system of review of the emissions targets every five years, with a view to ratcheting them upwards,” Nina M. Birkeland ends.    



NRC in Paris (30.11.2015)  

Watch the Press Briefing with Secretary General Jan Egeland from 10 December  

"Human mobility in a changing climate"   

Watch the Press Briefing from 2 December "Prepare and Adapt: Climate Change and Human Mobility - in COP21 and Beyond"