What is the Paris Agreement?
On December 12th 2015, all countries that signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came together in Paris at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) to discuss the threat of climate change. The parties agreed upon a united, accelerated effort to combat climate change by lowering global carbon emissions and aimed to stabilise a global temperature rise of well below 2°C this century.
To review the full UNFCCC COD 21 Report, click here.
What are carbon emissions and what causes them?
In its most basic form, Carbon is an element and is the most common element of life on earth. It is quite literally everywhere! Our bodies are made up of it, it’s in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the products we purchase and use.
Carbon emissions however, refer more specifically to Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
Carbon Dioxide (a greenhouse gas) is emitted in a variety of different ways, naturally and man-made. For example (but not limited to):
CO2 absorbed by the ocean is used by marine life (both animal and plant) and makes its way back to the surface and is re-emitted back into the atmosphere as the life form respires and decays (this is the case for both plant and animal species on land also)
Electric power generation is the greatest source of man-made CO2 emission to the atmosphere.
Humans, animals and plants emit CO2 when they exhale.
Cars, motorbikes, trucks, buses, trains…
Forest fires and volcanic eruptions
Industry and agriculture
Operating machinery, farming practices..
Plants use CO2 in photosynthesis to form energy that they store and use to carry out their life functions. Oxygen is produced as a by-product of this process.
|These types of human activities rely on the burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gases) to function and lead to increased CO2 emissions as a by-product.|
Why are excessive carbon emissions harmful?
Our earth has capably generated, absorbed and cycled through carbon dioxide naturally for generations. It is designed to manage natural CO2 emissions.
As a result of the Industrial Revolution, man-made carbon emissions have increased by approximately 31% and have begun to exceed the capacity for which the earth can process. The excess emissions build up in the atmosphere, resulting in the greenhouse effect and climate change outcomes, such as global warming.
Picture the earth as a 2 litre bowl and imagine it filled with exactly 2 litres of water. The bowl can easily handle the 2litres. Now, imagine attempting to add another cup and see it overflow. The problem isn’t the bowl or that it is already full – the bowl is designed to handle that much water. The problem is the extra cup!
Restoring the Earth’s natural carbon cycle and protecting our planet from climate change is the ultimate goal.
What can I do?
- Becoming knowledgeable is the first step to making informed, sustainable choices.
- Know what the Paris agreement is, who is involved and why lowering carbon emissions is important.
- Know what the Sustainable Development Goals are, their importance and how we go about achieving them.
- Know what the Waste Hierarchy is and prioritise your waste accordingly
- Know what initiatives and programs are available to you in your local area and actively participate in what you can
- Consider your personal emissions and implement strategies to lower your own footprint by;
- reviewing your energy efficiency
- use of sustainable alternatives such as solar power and electronic vehicles
- avoid CO2 by opting to walk, ride or carpool where possible
- make sustainable purchases (from companies that are committed to reducing their own emissions)