Editor's Note: 'Tar Heels Talk Climate' is a series of columns written by UNC students at the COP 23 conference in Bonn, Germany. This entry is the introduction to the series. Check back each day for updates from the UNC students attending.
Entry by: Mark Ortiz
Just under two years ago, leaders from 195 countries negotiated the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. It was one of the rare moments climate change policy made front page news. And for good reason: the Agreement was a monumental diplomatic achievement, the product of careful politicking by then President Barack Obama and a handful of other dedicated policymakers. In Paris, for the first time in the over twenty year history of the United Nations climate negotiations, virtually every country in the world agreed to act on climate change and collectively steer the planet toward a low-carbon future.
What many people do not realize is that the Paris Accord is just a beginning. It lays out ambitious goals - chief among them, zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of this century — that the global community must now translate into concrete policies and programs. While we do not know exactly how it is to be done, we do know that reaching the Paris targets will require nothing short of a rapid, global transformation over the coming decades, spanning the gamut from politics to economics and energy production.
This is why world leaders, scientists, businesses, and environmental advocates will converge in Bonn, Germany over the next two weeks for : the latest round of annual UN climate talks. Although these negotiations will lack the fanfare of the Paris conference (since there is no new agreement on the table), the decisions made will be no less consequential. Among other topics, decision makers will discuss how to raise funds to kick-start and expand renewable energy around the world, and how countries facing the ‘first and worst’ impacts of climate change can adapt to rising sea levels, more frequent droughts and extreme weather events.