Research paper: COP21 climate talks in Paris

Good research paper topics are the current negotiations at the climate talks going on in Paris. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international environmental treaty to discuss the effects of global warming and to stabilize emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that leads to global climate change.

Learn more about the current climate talks here. (Credit:

Learn more about the current climate talks here. (Credit:

The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the association of countries that participate in the convention. COP21 is the twenty-first conference addressing climate change and carbon emission taking place in Paris in November/December 2015.

Difficulty in making decisions

An issue you can discuss in a term paper is the slow pace of getting so many nations to agree on something that will affect their economy. The past two talks in Kyoto 1997 and Copenhagen 2009 failed to get countries to agree on a legally binding agreement. In Paris, the accord directing nations to address climate change still has hundreds of issues left up for debate. Although delegates from 200 countries have gone further than Kyoto and Copenhagen by agreeing to a draft of the accord, they still have to negotiate the details on 939 separate issues. Developing countries say too much constraint in reducing carbon emissions will hurt their economy.

Nevertheless, the fact that there is an accord that needs details worked out is considered progress. “The situation couldn’t be more different from Copenhagen… when delegations were more interested in grandstanding,” said Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence unit think-tank, in the article “Climate talks enter next phase, toughest decisions ahead” by David Stanway and Richard Valdmanis from Reuters posted December 5, 2015. Black said the chances of a climate deal “now look pretty good.”

Is success likely with these climate talks?

Your term paper could also research the history of success (or lack of success) of the previous climate talks in Kyoto and Copenhagen. The likelihood that nations will actually do what they have agreed to do is very slim. Back in 1997 in Kyoto, the Kyoto Protocol gave legally binding instructions for 37 nations and the European Union to address climate change, the nations agreed to the various actions to accomplish that, yet it failed. Numerous nations, including the United States, refused to ratify the Protocol; other nations, like Canada and Japan, tried to fulfill the requirements but fell short, without penalty; and developing nations, like China and India, were not required to take any steps.

In 2009 in Copenhagen, again issues were raised and discussed and a Copenhagen Accord agreed upon, but the accord was not legally binding. In Paris in 2015, “this time around, to engender stronger feelings of inclusion and generate greater participation, the U.N. has asked each member state to submit an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution prior to the meeting,” wrote Mirren Gidda in “COP 21: How the Paris Climate Talks Could Succeed; It’ll Take More Than Just the U.S. Toeing the Line,” in Newsweek, November 27, 2015. This way the conference will know in advance which countries are expected to accept an agreement and which countries may reject it.

Developing countries not as prepared as rich countries

Another topic for a term paper is to compare and contrast the goals of developing countries and developed countries in the climate change debate. Developed countries, which have contributed the most to global warming, have the money to make costly changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while developing economies do not. “The world’s least developed countries face the greatest threat from climate change as they lack the technology to cut greenhouse gas emissions and their infrastructure is too fragile to cope with extreme weather,” wrote Fiona Harvey in “Paris climate summit: Developing countries angry over financial plan” in The Guardian, December 5, 2015. The Paris accord includes financial commitments required by developing countries, alongside developed countries, that the poorer countries are not ready to commit to.

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Climate Change.

What do you think needs to be done to get countries to agree to reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

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