On December 12 in Paris, the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change concluded its 21st Conference of the Parties with a landmark agreement among the world’s nations to reduce emissions that increase global warming. The historic pact reflected unanimous agreement among 196 participating nations.
A number of SIPA faculty and students traveled to Paris to participate in a range of events surrounding the conference.
Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, who is also Columbia University’s Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and a professor of health policy and management, is a prominent figure in the fight against global warming. He saluted the agreement and discussed the road ahead, observing that
“The diplomats have done their job: the Paris Agreement points the world in the right direction, and with sophistication and clarity. It does not, however, ensure implementation, which necessarily remains the domain of politicians, businessmen, scientists, engineers, and civil society.” (Reuters, December 12)
- Sachs suggested that the urgent and long overdue challenge of implementation begins now. (“Let’s hail the Paris climate change agreement and get to work,” Financial Times, December 12)
- Sachs also said that the the world's mayors are the officials on the front lines When it comes to implementing regulations to fight climate change (At Paris Climate Summit, Cities Seen As Key In Fight Against Global Climate Issues, WBUR radio (audio), December 7)
- He had previously discussed the politics of climate change in the United States: “Overcoming the U.S. Politics of Climate Change,” Bloomberg Business (video), December 4)
Scott Barrett, the Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics, argued in a written piece for PBS NewsHour that “More important than what happens in Paris is what happens after Paris.” (December 9)
- Barrett also explained to NewsHour “Why 2 degrees Celsius is climate change’s magic number,” (video, December 2)
- In an interview that set the table for the start of the conference, Barrett discussed with Columbia magazine (in an interview conducted by Claudia Dreifus) what game theory can teach us about climate-change negotiations. (“The Next Move for Planet Earth,” Winter 2015-16 issue)
David Sandalow, the inaugural fellow at SIPA’s Center on Global Energy Policy, has been an undersecretary and held other senior positions at the U.S. Department of Energy. He told CNN why the COP21 agreement is so important (“Landmark climate deal reached in Paris,” video, December 12).
- Sandalow discusses what the COP21 does—and doesn’t—mean for the world in this Center on Global Energy Policy podcast: “A readout from COP21,” (audio, December 17).
- While in Paris, Sandalow interviewed U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on climate change and energy innovation;
- He also talked about the source of President Obama’s authority to take action on climate. (“How Obama Hopes To Achieve U.S. Climate Goals,” NPR (audio), December 3)
Read the Center on Global Energy Policy's collected commentary on the COP21 agreement from scholars across Columbia University.
Columbia's delegation to COP21 also included Travis Bradford, an associate professor of practice in international and public affairs and the director of SIPA's concentration in energy and environment. View his twitter feed from Paris here:
Ben Orlove, a professor of international and public affairs at SIPA, visited the COP21 conference as an official observer of the Nepal-based International Center for Integrated Mountain Development. Among other things, Orlove organized a gathering of small mountainous countries to discuss glacier retreat and its consequences. Orlove's GlacierHub website has more information about:
- the meeting of representatives from glacier countries Tajikistan, Bhutan, Peru, Bolivia, Switzerland, Austria and Norway;
- why the Paris agreement offers some good news for glaciers
Students Lia Cairone MIA '16, Cait O’Donnell MIA '16 and Göksenin Öztürkeri MIA '16 were among those who took part in various activities around the conference. O'Donnell and Öztürkeri were active tweeters: visit their feeds to see photos and other messages about their activities.
Back in New York, Steven Cohen discussed COP21 with Science Friday:
- Audio: Will the Paris conference lead to a binding climate agreement? December 4, 2015
- Read Cohen's thoughts on Paris and related environmental issues in the Huffington Post.
If you have additional content from COP21, please contact Marcus Tonti of SIPA Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.