Lauren R. Stevens: Nations uniting to fight climate change


WILLIAMSTOWN — In late September the amount of carbon emissions in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million, making the notion of holding the line at 350 ppm seem quaint. Nevertheless the world is mobilizing. On Nov. 7-18, the 195 signers of the 2015 Paris Agreement meet in Marrakech, Morocco, to determine how to implement the carbon dioxide limits the countries have imposed on themselves.

For the agreement to go into effect, at least 55 countries, representing 55 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, had to ratify it. Both those figures were surpassed with India and the European Union presenting their credentials in the first week of October, meaning that Marrakech will be the first COP meeting in which the agreement is operational.

Therefore it is called the COP of Action. Although the U.S. presidential campaign has hardly whispered "climate change," around the globe the issue is loud and clear.

COP stands for the Congress of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which entered into force in 1994. Paris hosted the 21st annual meeting of the group. Marrakech will attempt to achieve the priorities of the Paris Agreement, "especially related to adaptation, transparency, technology transfer, mitigation, capacity building and loss and damages," according to the web site. Salaheddine Mezouar, Moroccan minister of foreign affairs and president of COP22, believes the conference is "an opportunity to make the voices of the most vulnerable countries to climate change heard, in particular African countries and island states."

Signatories of the Paris Agreement now have to develop their National Adaptation Plans. Much of that will depend on green technologies. Marrakech prepared for the gathering by building its first water treatment plant, so that all its wastewater no longer dumps into the Tensift River. The city also now generates electricity from biogas at a former landfill, has created an intelligent lighting system, converted to electric buses and powers a mosque with photovoltaic panels.

The countries are required to gather and share information on their greenhouse gas emissions, national policies and best practices. They will need to implement the strategies in their Adaptation Plans, including providing financial and technical support for developing countries. They need to cooperate with other countries with preparations and adaptations to the effects of climate change.

Not only nations, individuals can contribute. Some do. In September Tufts University endowed a chair in honor of the founder of the Fletcher Center for International Environment and Resource Policy, William R. Moomaw, who served on the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. panel that provided the conclusive evidence of climate change on which the Paris Agreement was based. Moomaw, a former Williams College professor, built a net-zero carbon home in Williamstown, where he and his wife live.

At least, that's how it looks from the White Oaks.

A writer and environmentalist, Lauren R. Stevens is a regular Eagle contributor.


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