COP 21: We Must Not Waste This Opportunity

We have the opportunity this week to make lasting change. At this point in the negotiations the framework is in place and substantial strides have been made. Now we need to utilize the positive global momentum and ensure that we do not squander this significant opportunity.
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It has been an incredible week for the global effort to combat climate change. We are officially one week into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's 21st Conference of the Parties in Paris (COP 21) where world leaders, national governments, business leaders and non-profit organizations have gathered to negotiate a global strategy to halt the impending climate disaster. With the initial round of negotiations complete, it is clear that while we are on the cusp of critical change we also have a long way to go. We said COP 21 would make history, we never said it would be easy.

I have spent the past week in Paris meeting with government leaders, negotiators and civil society activists from all over the world, all here taking part in this critical moment in our global history. As a long-time climate activist and the President and CEO of The Climate Reality Project--one of the world's leading organizations dedicated to mobilizing action around climate change founded by former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore--I personally have been eagerly awaiting this moment for years. It is clear that the same energy and intense desire to combat climate change that drives me is felt on a global scale. Over and over again I have been struck by the tremendous sense of purpose being brought to the focused discussions happening here at every level.

After the initial talks I am encouraged by the desire for international cooperation even as each negotiating party comes with their own priorities and agenda. For example, significant initiatives like the African Union's $20 billion plan to develop renewable energy on the continent before the end of the decade, as well as India initiating an impressive alliance of 120 countries to expand solar around the globe, all indicate the importance of working together to solve this worldwide problem. I hope that we can keep this positive momentum going through this week when the government ministers take over the negotiations, and that the result will be a lasting agreement that makes sense on a global scale.

While there has been a significant number of positive steps, this week has not been without its challenges. For the first time in the history of these negotiations, almost all of the 196 participating governments will share the burden of reducing carbon emissions from both an economic and practical perspective. Questions remain over the different responsibilities of developed and developing nations, about who will help pay for low-carbon projects in emerging economies, what is needed in an equitable agreement, and when review periods for strengthening commitments will begin. These issues continue to be contentious and must still be resolved.

However, I remain optimistic that the negotiations will succeed. COP21 is by far the best chance we have to achieve a strong international agreement. In my opinion a successful agreement is universal - one in which all countries take part; progressive - one that provides for periodic review and strengthening of commitments; equitable- one that protects the worlds poor from climate change, and transparent--one that provides a credible way to monitor, report, and verify global and country-level progress towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We have the opportunity this week to make lasting change. At this point in the negotiations the framework is in place and substantial strides have been made. Now we need to utilize the positive global momentum and ensure that we do not squander this significant opportunity. Our collective future depends on it.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post, in conjunction with the U.N.'s 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (Nov. 30-Dec. 11), aka the climate-change
conference. The series will put a spotlight on climate-change issues and the conference itself. To view the entire series, visit here.

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