Paris Climate Change Conference: The Dummies Guide

What are the challenges facing nations?


This is one of the largest gatherings of countries in recent history, with nearly 200 nation states taking part over the course of nearly two weeks. One of the greatest challenges facing the assembled nations will be building a consensus about how prevent further rises in global temperatures - assembled countries will need to ensure that temperatures do not exceed 2 degrees (above pre-industrial levels). 

creATING long-term goals 

The Paris conference cannot achieve positive action on climate change alone; it will need to set a precedent for future climate talks. These will need to include holding countries to account on harmful emissions, binding nations to making deeper cuts in emissions at a later date, and an understanding that developing nations will receive funding to help them go green. 


The question of finance remains the biggest "elephant in the room" hanging over the Paris negotiations. The question of exactly how to encourage nations to make that decisive shift from fossil fuels to greener forms of energy will be a significant one. New finance is essential if developing nations are to make the leap, and some have already complained about the lack of action from the richer nations. 

Finance initiatives have already been unveiled; Microsoft founder and entrepreneur Bill Gates has already pledged $1 billion for new energy research and development. Additionally, France and India have unveiled a plan to mobilise $1 trillion for solar power to help some of the world's poorer countries.  

The issue of legality 

Another question hanging over the talks is whether the accord will be legally binding - this would prevent countries from backsliding on their commitments at some point in the future. 

Disputes over accountability have caused problems at previous climate change summits; for example, at the 1997 Kyoto talks, developing nations were not legally bound to the same targets as rich nations.

Likewise, a deal brokered by President Obama at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 failed to achieve any meaningful outcome.  With only a year of Obama's presidency left, there are fears that the progress his government has made in the past six years could be reversed by a new president. 


India is one of the key obstacles in this round of climate change talks, which is especially remarkable, since it has much to lose from further potential climate change. 

Yet India argues that its growing population and the need to provide electricity to the 30 million Indians who lack it, mean that new coal-fired power stations are needed to supplement existing sources of electricity.  

India's greenhouse gas emissions are set to increase in real terms, estimated to reach 30 billion tonnes by the year 2030. In essence, India are asking for "carbon space" to allow them to develop their economy as other nations have before them. ​

According to the International Energy Agency, India will need to invest $140 billion in a year on any number of infrastructure projects, including modernising its energy grid, and improving technology for burning coal.

Therefore, whilst India is one of the leading global economies in terms of economic output, it also stands to one of the greatest obstacles to any binding agreement. ​

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