COP21, Me, and You

COP21, Me, and You

What you need to know about the United Nations climate change conference.
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The world will be in Paris this December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Its hope? To set a universal and legally-binding limit on climate change due to human-created greenhouse gas emissions. Universal because there are 195 members to the Conference of the Parties (COP), and legally-binding to compel nations by law to follow through with the agreement. There has never been such a global-scale motion to combat climate change.

Here is some context:

COP — the only broadly legitimate, international entity centered on climate change — is the product of an agreement made in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The convention was not legally binding and merely gave parties a framework by which to establish protocols to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. COP has met every year since 1992. This year's meeting will be its 21st, which is why it is called COP21.

The conference is also called CMP11 because it is the 11th Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997. Under the protocol, climate change mitigation commitments were legally binding but varied from nation to nation. Annex I countries, including the United States and European Union, committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Other nations such as China and India made no such commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. However, even for Annex I nations, the protocol could not have real effect without many nations ratifying it, and the U.S. never did pass it through Congress. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was from 2008 to 2012. The second period, which began in 2013, expires in 2020.

In order for the world to move forward on the issue of climate change, all nations must contribute to the movement. After a disappointing conference in Copenhagen in 2009, which was rushed and scattered (although it did produce an agreement for parties to curb global warming by 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels), the nations met in Durban in 2011. They came up with the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action and a corresponding ad hoc committee (ADP), which would work for a universal, legally-binding agreement by 2015. The conference in Paris will be the culmination of that work.

Here are some facts about COP21:

COP21 will take place between November 30 and December 11, 2015, in the French capital. 40,000 people are expected to attend, including national delegates, observers, and civil society members. There is a lot of pressure: the imminent expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2020, the need for major polluters such as the U.S. and China to lead the world to an agreement about climate change, and the environmental catastrophes that will result from rising global temperatures of more than 2 degrees. A lot needs to change, and not the climate.

There is some hope that it will. As part of a bottom-up approach, each member nation has agreed to produce an intended nationally-determined contribution (INDC) with its goals for emissions reductions and climate change mitigation. In a landmark joint statement, the U.S. said it would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, while China said its emissions would peak by 2030. Around 150 countries have submitted their INDCs so far, and a summary of the contributions will be written by Nov. 1. The idea behind this approach is to push each nation to come up with its own ambitious and feasible solutions, which will be evaluated when all nations come together.

Another major part of COP21 is an economic agreement that will mobilize $100 billion for climate change mitigation every year. This sum will come from developed nations as well as private and public enterprises starting from 2020, and there is already a Green Climate Fund with an initial capital of $10.2 billion. Through this economic plan, COP21 will support not only climate change solutions but also sustainable investment and development.

The most important part about COP21, however, at least for me (and hopefully for the world), is the broad involvement of all parties who have a stake in the issue of climate change. I do not mean just delegates of member nations; instead, I mean members of civil society such as representatives of NGOs, businesses, subnational governments, cultural organizations, and academic institutions. Yale will have its own delegation; I will be part of it.

Whether or not the conference will meet the high expectations the world has for it — the universal legally-binding agreement we hope will curb global warming — the leadup to COP21 has already brought the issue of climate change onto a global stage. Many nations have already submitted an INDC, and many delegations are already prepared to meet. But the real impetus for a new agreement on climate change comes from members of civil society like us. The more attention we pay to COP21's unfolding — the more we read the news, respond to it, and incorporate sustainability into our actions — the more pressure we will add to the conference's proceedings.

Cover Image Credit: COP21

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Lisa Daftari, We Use The Same Freedom Of Speech You Do To Protest Your Hateful Views

"When you go to the mosque and you're part of a community, and you want to feel important and relevant, and want to give back to the cause — [ISIS] recruits you."

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It's funny how freedom of speech works. Sometimes it's a blessing, and other time's it's a curse. I guess it depends on the side you're on.

Lisa Daftari, Rutgers Alum, Iranian-American journalist, and *insert all other titles that may be relevant* was scheduled to come to Rutgers for a "Radicalism on College Campuses" speech. Oh sorry, that's not what that really means. The speech was actually about freedom of speech and Daftari was supposed to be conversing about "how we can use our college campuses as a place for learning, thinking and leadership rather than violence, hatred, and radicalism."

Okay, let's pause. Here's a throwback to when Lisa Daftari said, "When you go to the mosque and you're part of a community, and you want to feel important and relevant, and want to give back to the cause — [ISIS] recruits you." And she's previously made concerning comments in regards to Islamophobia.

And let's not forget to point out that Rutgers University Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA) has funded her to come using our tuition money. I'm not quite sure about you, but it worries me that Rutgers University, which constantly boasts about its diversity, sponsored an individual who may threaten the Muslim community on campus.

So freedom of speech allowed for a Rutgers student to start a petition aimed at preventing Daftari from appearing on Rutgers New Brunswick campus.

And freedom of speech allowed for Daftari to tweet the petition with the caption, "BULLIES at Rutgers University threatening to cancel my talk. Ironically the talk is on freedom of speech on campus." (In case you're wondering, I didn't capitalize "bullies," that's just how she wrote it. Check it out.)

And freedom of speech allowed for a group of mainly Muslim students and staff members to sit down with Vice Chancellor Ben Sifuentes to address our concerns. Just to be clear, we have no issue that her point of view is different than ours. Nor do we have an issue with her utilizing her First Amendment Right to freedom of speech. We were merely disappointed that Rutgers paid for her to come.

And freedom of speech allowed for Rutgers University UAA to inform Daftari that her event has been postponed. Daftari assumed that postponement equaled cancellation.

I guess we all interpret things differently.

And freedom of speech allowed for a student to create a counter-petition calling for the event to remain scheduled. Despite Vice Chancellor's email to Daftari providing her with dates in November that she may reschedule her talk, but she denied.

Lisa Daftari states, "To come back after the damage has been done to my reputation and suggest that this was some misunderstanding... lacks the integrity and respect that I would have hoped from my alma mater."

You see, that's the funny thing about freedom of speech. We all use it in the way we see will be of benefit to us. Lisa Daftari, you were coming to talk to us about freedom of speech, but I think we already have a pretty good idea of how that works.

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