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Impact of Global Climate Conferences on Global Sustainability Progress

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Authored by:

Ruhani W. Mainra in collaboration G20 Sustainability Task Force

Under guidance of Mr. Sanjay Tugnait, President & CEO Fairfax Digital, Co-Chair, G20 Sustainability Taskforce


This research report aims to critically analyse the effectiveness of global climate conferences in addressing the challenges of climate change. The study reviews the objectives, achievements, and limitations of major climate conferences over the years. By examining the outcomes and impact of these conferences, this report provides insights into the role of international cooperation in combating climate change and highlights areas for improvement in future conferences. The findings suggest that while global climate conferences have made significant progress in raising awareness and setting targets, their effectiveness in implementing concrete actions and achieving substantial emission reductions remains limited. It is imperative to assign measurable goals and targets along with specific mechanisms including funding for technological advancements as well as ecosystem support to enable the specific goals.

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction

    1. 1.1 Background

    2. 1.2 Research Objectives

    3. 1.3 Methodology

  2. Global Climate Conferences: An Overview

    1. 2.1 Evolution of Climate Conferences

    2. 2.2 Key Conferences and Agreements

    3. 2.3 Key Objectives of Climate Conferences

  3. Implementation of Climate Agreements

    1. 3.1 Disparities in Global Commitments & Action

    2. 3.2 Enforcement of Climate Agreement Clauses

  4. Future Outlook & Recommendations for Achieving Climate Change Progress

    1. 4.1 Strengthening National Climate Policies

    2. 4.2 Future Outlook & KPI’s

  5. Key Findings & The Path Forward

    1. Research Summary

    2. Implementation of Strategies


1.1 - Background:

One of the most critical problems facing the world now is climate change, which must be addressed through group efforts and international cooperation. Global climate conferences have become important forums for countries to network and plan strategies for reducing climate change. The purpose of this study paper is to evaluate these conferences' success in addressing the problems caused by climate change. The paper examines the goals, successes, and constraints of significant climate conferences that have taken place over the years. The study offers important insights into the importance of international cooperation in tackling climate change by evaluating the results and impact of these conferences. Additionally, it identifies areas where future conferences can make improvements. While the report's findings show that international climate conferences have been essential in raising awareness and defining goals, their success in enacting specific measures and achieving significant emission reductions has been limited. Despite substantial progress, it is still difficult to translate conference discussions into practical actions. In order to improve the success of future global climate conferences in effectively tackling the difficulties posed by climate change, this research paper offers a critical analysis of previous conferences.

1.2 - Research Objectives:

This research report's foremost objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of international climate conferences. By performing an in-depth analysis of the significant climate conferences that have taken place over the years, the study hopes to achieve this goal. In order to fully comprehend their effect on tackling climate change, it aims to explore the goals, successes, and limitations of these conferences. The paper aims to offer useful insights into the role of international collaboration in carrying out specific activities and achieving significant emission reductions by looking at the outcomes of these conferences. The research report also seeks to identify conference improvement opportunities and provide suggestions for boosting conference effectiveness.

1.3 - Methodology:

This study's methodology entailed a thorough evaluation and analysis of significant climate conferences that had taken place throughout the years. The study used a thorough literature analysis to compile pertinent data on the objectives, outcomes, and limitations of these conferences. Data was gathered by consulting a variety of sources, including academic articles, reports, and official conference documents. Based on the documented results and advancement made, the success of international climate conferences was assessed in terms of putting forth specific initiatives and accomplishing significant emission reductions.

Global Climate Conferences - An Overview:

2.1 - The Evolution of Global Climate Conferences:

The establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the 1970s marked the beginning of the formation of international climate conferences. The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, which laid the groundwork for later climate summits, was a major turning point in the early journey for climate activism. Under the the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), such conferences, also known as the Conferences of the Parties (COP), are held. Participants in COPs include international organisations, corporations, scientists, non-governmental organisations, and member-state governments'. Diverse parties' participation demonstrated the need for the implementation of effective solutions, developed through interdisciplinary cooperation.

2.2 - Key Conferences and Agreements:

International climate awareness has been significantly shaped by a number of important conferences. The Earth Summit (UNCED) in 1992 created a basis for future summits by highlighting the necessity of international collaboration. For more developed nations, the Kyoto Protocol (COP3) of 1997 set mandatory emissions reduction goals. The Paris Agreement (COP21) in 2015 established a framework for international climate action, while the Copenhagen Accord (COP15) in 2009 sought to obtain a new global climate pact. In 2021, the latest Glasgow Climate Pact (COP26) put a special emphasis on stepping up efforts to slow global warming. However, though many solutions are put forth, not enough are implemented by countries, corporations, or communities.

2.3 - Key Objectives within Climate Conferences:

Climate conferences have been instrumental in setting ambitious goals and objectives to address climate change, backed by quantitative evidence. For instance, the Paris Agreement, reached during COP21, aimed to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This agreement involved 195 countries, accounting for around 97% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement also set the objective of achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions and removals of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century. Additionally, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), discussed and integrated into climate conferences, have specific quantitative targets related to climate change. SDG 13, for example, focuses on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. It includes targets such as strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity, mobilising climate finance, and increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. These goals and objectives provide a framework for countries to align their efforts and measure progress in combating climate change. However, it is important to note that while ambitious goals are set, the actual implementation and achievement of these targets are complex and require sustained efforts and international cooperation.

Insufficient Implementation of Climate Agreements:

3.1 - Disparities in Global Commitments & Action:

While some countries have made substantial pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy sources, others have set relatively insufficient goals or failed to commit at all. According to the Climate Action Tracker, a consortium of research organisations, the current commitments from countries would result in a global temperature rise of approximately 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century; significantly above the Paris Agreement's target of limiting the increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius. Political and economic factors also play a crucial role in the insufficient implementation of climate agreements. Political interests and priorities often clash with long-term environmental goals. Economic considerations, such as the dependence on fossil fuel industries, can hinder the adoption of sustainable practices and the transition to renewable energy sources. Some countries may prioritise economic growth and development over climate action, especially in regions where poverty alleviation remains a pressing concern.

3.2 - Enforcement of Climate Agreement Clauses:

The lack of robust enforcement mechanisms poses a significant challenge. Climate agreements largely rely on voluntary compliance, which makes it difficult to hold countries accountable for their commitments. While some agreements include review processes, they often lack necessary enforcement, even after a nation has become a signatory to the agreement. This lack of enforcement mechanisms undermines the effectiveness of climate activism and negotiations, and allows countries to sidestep their responsibilities and commitments.

The graph below showcases an upward trend in Atmospheric CO2 and in Global Temperature Change since 1960. Based on this, it is important to recognize that the impacts of climate change are complex and multifaceted, and they extend beyond the scope of individual conferences. Long-term trends in atmospheric CO2 and global temperature change are influenced by a range of factors, including government policies, technological advancements, economic activities, and societal behaviours. While global climate conferences provide an important platform for international cooperation and setting goals, their effectiveness in driving long-term trends depends on the implementation and enforcement of policies at national and regional levels.

Future Outlook and Recommendations for Achieving Climate Change Progress:

4.1 Strengthening National Climate Policies:

It is vital to strengthen the transparency and accountability within climate conferences by requiring countries to report their progress on their commitments regularly. This enables tracking and monitoring of emission reduction targets and encourages greater compliance.

As a prominent platform for international cooperation on economic and financial issues, the G20 Sustainability Committee has the potential to play a crucial role in reducing global warming. Here are some recommendations that the committee has made to address this challenge:

Transition to Clean Energy:

● Promote the rapid transition to clean and renewable energy sources by providing financial incentives and policy support. Encourage G20 members to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and redirect those funds towards renewable energy projects.

● Facilitate technology transfer and collaboration to support the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, such as solar, wind, and geothermal power.

Carbon Pricing:

● Advocate for the implementation of carbon pricing mechanisms, such as carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems, to incentivize emissions reduction across sectors. Encourage G20 countries to adopt and strengthen carbon pricing policies and explore avenues for international cooperation on carbon markets.

Sustainable Infrastructure Investment:

● Encourage prioritising sustainable infrastructure investment that promotes low-carbon technologies, energy efficiency, and climate resilience. This includes infrastructure for renewable energy generation, public transportation, and smart cities.

● Promote public-private partnerships and international cooperation to mobilise financial resources for sustainable infrastructure projects.

Support for Developing Countries:

● Increase financial and technical support for developing countries to enhance their climate resilience and reduce emissions. Fulfil the commitment to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance to developing countries and explore additional funding sources.

● Facilitate capacity building and technology transfer to help developing countries leapfrog to cleaner and more sustainable technologies.

Nature-Based Solutions and Conservation:

● Recognize the importance of nature-based solutions, such as reforestation, forest conservation, and ecosystem restoration, in mitigating climate change. Encourage G20 countries to invest in nature-based projects that provide carbon sequestration and adaptation co-benefits.

● Promote sustainable land management practices that enhance carbon storage and biodiversity conservation, such as sustainable agriculture and responsible forest management.

Circular Economy and Sustainable Consumption:

● Encourage the adoption of circular economy principles, which minimize waste and promote resource efficiency. Advocate for policies that incentivize sustainable consumption and production patterns, including measures to reduce single-use plastics and promote recycling.

Strengthen Data and Reporting:

● Advocate for improved data collection, monitoring, and reporting on climate-related indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, and climate impacts. Encourage standardised reporting frameworks to enhance transparency and comparability among G20 countries.

● Support research and innovation in climate science and promote the use of scientific findings in policy-making.

These recommendations, if implemented, have the potential to significantly contribute to global efforts to reduce global warming. They emphasise the importance of ambitious targets, clean energy transition, sustainable infrastructure, support for developing countries, nature-based solutions, circular economy, and robust data and reporting systems.

4.2 - Future Outlook and KPI’s:

Improving Conference Formats and Processes:

● Enhance the effectiveness of climate conferences by improving the formats and processes. This includes streamlining negotiations, reducing bureaucracy, and promoting more interactive and inclusive discussions.

● Utilise advanced technology and digital platforms to facilitate virtual participation and remote collaboration, allowing for broader engagement and reducing the carbon footprint associated with travel.

● Incorporate more interactive and engaging elements, such as workshops, roundtable discussions, and interactive sessions, to foster meaningful dialogue and knowledge sharing among participants.

Strengthening National Climate Policies:

● Encourage countries to strengthen their national climate policies by adopting more ambitious emission reduction targets and implementing robust strategies to transition to low-carbon economies.

● Promote the integration of climate considerations into all policy areas, including energy, transport, agriculture, and urban planning.

● Provide technical and financial support to countries, particularly developing nations, to enhance their capacity for policy development, implementation, and monitoring.

Promoting Public Participation:

● Recognize the importance of public participation and engagement in addressing climate change. Promote inclusive processes that involve civil society organizations, youth groups, indigenous communities, and other stakeholders in decision-making and policy development.

● Establish mechanisms for public input and feedback on climate policies and initiatives. Encourage transparency and accountability by providing accessible information and opportunities for public consultation.

● Foster climate education and awareness campaigns to empower individuals and communities to take action and make sustainable choices.

Advancing Climate Justice:

● Prioritise climate justice in climate conferences and agreements by addressing the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities and marginalised groups, particularly in developing countries.

● Ensure that climate policies and initiatives are equitable, taking into account the different capacities and needs of countries and communities.

● Promote financial and technological support to enable developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change and pursue sustainable development pathways.

Strengthening International Cooperation:

● Enhance international cooperation and collaboration to address climate change comprehensively. Strengthen partnerships between governments, international organisations, academia, and the private sector to mobilise resources, share best practices, and promote innovation.

● Encourage the exchange of knowledge, experiences, and technology transfer to support developing countries in their climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

● Foster cooperation on climate finance, including the mobilisation of climate funds, the development of innovative financing mechanisms, and the scaling up of financial support to developing countries.

Key Findings & the Path Forward:

5.1 - Research Summary:

In the face of the existential threat posed by climate change, global climate conferences have emerged as crucial forums for international collaboration and action. This research paper has delved into the evolution, objectives, and outcomes of major climate conferences over the years, aiming to assess their effectiveness in addressing this pressing global challenge. The findings of this study highlight both the successes and limitations of these conferences. They have undoubtedly played a pivotal role in raising awareness about climate change, setting ambitious goals, and fostering international cooperation. The Paris Agreement, for instance, demonstrated the power of collective commitment by bringing together 195 countries to strive for a more sustainable future. Moreover, the integration of climate-related targets into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals has provided a comprehensive framework for aligning global efforts. However, this research reveals the sobering reality that while lofty goals are set, the implementation of concrete measures and the achievement of substantial emissions reductions remain elusive. Disparities in global commitments and actions persist, with some nations lagging behind due to political interests and economic considerations. The absence of robust enforcement mechanisms in many climate agreements prevents progress.

5.2 - Future Actions:

To move forward, it is imperative to translate the rhetoric of climate conferences into tangible actions and results. The recommendations outlined in this paper offer a comprehensive roadmap for enhancing the effectiveness of future climate conferences. Strengthening national climate policies, promoting public participation, advancing climate justice, and fostering international cooperation are all critical steps towards meaningful progress. Furthermore, the adoption of advanced technologies and more inclusive conference formats can facilitate broader engagement and reduce the carbon footprint associated with these gatherings. By ensuring that climate considerations are integrated into all policy areas and by empowering individuals and communities through education and awareness campaigns, we can foster a global culture of sustainability and responsibility.

In conclusion, global climate conferences have undeniably made significant strides in addressing climate change, but there is still much work to be done. The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we not only set ambitious targets but also hold ourselves accountable for achieving them. By implementing the recommendations provided in this paper and committing to genuine collaboration, we can pave the way for a sustainable and low-carbon future that safeguards our planet for generations to come. The time for action is now, and global climate conferences must be at the forefront of this transformative journey.


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