The COP21 climate conference brought together scores of countries and tens of thousands of people to answer one pressing question: How can we keep global temperatures from rising too high? After two weeks of debate, they left with an ambitious deal to put the world on a serious carbon diet, and on April 22 about 160 countries are expected to finally sign it. Here's how it happened and what Canada promised to do
About 160 countries are expected to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change in New York Friday in a symbolic triumph for a landmark deal that once seemed unlikely but now appears on track to enter into force years ahead of schedule. Under the agreement, countries set their own targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, with a goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius compared with preindustrial times (and an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees). The targets are not legally binding but countries must update them every five years. But first, nations like Canada must formally approve it domestically.
COP21: THE BASICS
When was it? Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.
What's a COP? It stands for "conference of the parties." This was the 21st such UN climate-change meeting since 1995.
What happens there? The COP meetings are where member states take stock of their climate-change strategies, and sometimes set new targets to curb their greenhouse-gas emissions.
Who was there? Delegates from 195 countries and some 40,000 people went to Paris for the summit.
- Primer: Read Eric Andrew-Gee’s explanation of the key issues of the summit
- Doing the math: Seven key numbers to help you understand the Paris climate challenge
WHAT CANADA SAID, DID AND DIDN'T DO
Curbing emissions: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to the Paris summit with the same emissions targets set by his predecessor, Stephen Harper: a 30-per-cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.
Beating the heat: Environment Minister Catherine McKenna was among the delegates pressing for a more ambitious goal in curbing global temperature increases: Preventing a rise of more than 1.5 degrees by 2100, rather than the two degrees sought after by other major powers at the summit. (Here's Affan Chowdhry and Tu Thanh Ha's explanation of how that half-degree could make a big difference for the Earth's climate.)
The hard sell: Mr. Trudeau, eager to improve Canada's tarnished global reputation on the climate-change file, pressed developing countries such as India to sign on to the ambitious climate-change deal.
What's the damage? Developing nations at the summit, especially island states who worry climate change will destroy their communities with rising sea levels and unpredictable weather, wanted pledges of financial support for climate-related "loss and damage" in the agreement. Canada, backing the United States, sought to ensure that any loss-and-damage provisions would limit nations from launching tobacco-style lawsuits against one another.
Helping the developing world: On Nov. 27, Mr. Trudeau promised to put $2.65-billion into emissions-reduction projects for developing countries.
Cleaner technology: On the first day of COP21, Canada announced it had pledged $300-million to the Mission Innovation initiative for clean technology development.
The provinces: Many provincial premiers joined the Canadian delegation to Paris. At the summit's end, Ms. McKenna said the completed Paris Agreement would set the international framework for the federal government's climate deal with provinces. But when the federal government met with premiers months later in Vancouver to hammer out a consensus, they agreed only to a broad emissions-reduction strategy and not to the national minimum carbon price the Trudeau government was seeking.
- Team Canada: Learn more about Catherine McKenna, the rookie Environment and Climate Change Minister
- Alberta: Read more about the province’s carbon-tax plan
PREVIOUSLY IN PARIS: WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUMMIT
Day 1: 'There can be no laggards on this'
Nov. 30: The conference officially opens with speeches from major world leaders. Mr. Trudeau promises "Canada will take on a new leadership role internationally" on climate change, but stops short of committing to a deadline for the national climate plan he promised to negotiate with premiers. Russia and Britain stress that agreements met in Paris should be legally binding, which the United States and China oppose.
- More viewing: Opening COP21 speeches from Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel and Xi Jinping
Day 2-6: The binding questions
Dec. 1: The leaders begin to leave Paris as the 195 countries' climate negotiators resume work on a draft text for the climate deal. Shortly before his departure, Mr. Obama says he'd accept a deal with some legally binding components, if not legally binding emissions targets. That puts him at odds with Senate Republicans, who have vowed to block the $3-billion (U.S.) Mr. Obama has promised for the UN Green Climate Fund. Ms. McKenna, the Environment Minister, says that it's more important to have big emitters like the United States and China sign on to a deal than to get a legally binding treaty.
Dec. 2: Global protests on climate issues continue as the summit winds down and negotiators dig into the issues. Here's an analysis by The Globe's Eric Reguly of the questions being asked at the talks.
JACQUES BRINON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dec. 3: Carbon Tracker, a British financial think tank, releases a report at the summit saying that, if world powers succeed in their targets for preventing global temperature increases, the measures would make $2-trillion (U.S.) in fossil-fuel reserves uneconomical. Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore tells the summit that much of Canada's oil-sands reserves would be "stranded" by the climate-change measures, and investors should plan for the future accordingly.
Dec. 4: Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and chair of the International Financial Stability Board, announces a task force to create a "one-stop shop" to help investors and policy makers make the transition to a less fossil-fuel-dependent economy. The organization, led by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, is tasked with creating voluntary financial risk disclosure guidelines.
Day 7: Canada ups the ante
Dec. 6: As the summit's first week concludes, Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna backs a more aggressive target: No temperature increases higher than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. That's the goal that island nations – fearing the day that rising sea levels will submerge their homelands – are championing, though the United States maintains a target of two degrees. Ms. McKenna is also appointed a facilitator at the Paris negotiations, a select group who lead informal discussions to smooth out disagreements about the final text of the deal.
ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Day 8: Premiers in Paris
Dec. 7: On the sidelines of the summit, Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger joins his Ontario and Quebec counterparts to sign on to a cross-border carbon market among the provinces and California, and possibly more states to come.
Day 9-10: Splitting the bill between rich and poor
Dec. 9: A draft released Wednesday leaves major issues unresolved, including the long-term goal of an eventual accord, and which countries should pay to help the most vulnerable nations cope with global warming. Ms. McKenna says the talks were hitting a rocky patch over the role of markets and "differentiation," the balance of climate-change obligations between the developing world and the developed nations that emits most of the world's greenhouse gases. Asked about her earlier support for a 1.5-degree global temperature target, she refused to say whether Canada would now base its own climate strategy on that goal, or what impact a more ambitious goal would have on oil-sands production.
Day 11-12: The home stretch
Dec. 10: Sleep-deprived and increasingly tense, diplomats and climate negotiators struggled Thursday to narrow down the 29-page draft of the climate deal.
At a morning plenary session,
Ms. McKenna stresses that protecting human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples are "critically important" to the final draft.
Dec. 11: A final draft of the text is hammered out after the delegates work through the night. The new deal toughens up the language on global temperature goals, setting a two-degree target but a 1.5-degree aspirational goal, with countries pledging to significantly cut back on their emissions in the second half of the 21st century.
Day 13: The breakthrough
Dec. 12: "The Paris accord is accepted," French foreign minister Laurent Fabius announces at a Saturday night session. The Paris Agreement between 195 countries commits to a two-degree limit in global temperature increases, but makes the 1.5 degrees an aspirational (if not binding) goal. While considered legally "binding," the agreement doesn't impose specific emissions targets for participating countries.
MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
With reports from Campbell Clark, Eric Reguly, Shawn McCarthy, Eric Andrew-Gee, Evan Annett and Associated Press