With a few months to go before the world takes part in the climate change negotiations at the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), some 2,000 leading climate experts are meeting at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris to share the latest science on climate change and to design effective solutions for a sustainable future. The 4-day conference “our Common Future Under Climate Change” will be the largest forum for the scientific community to shed light on climate negotiations by providing a strong knowledge basis, to ensure that political decisions are built on a sound understanding of climate change.
Many communities are already feeling the impacts of climate change -from Sami herders in the Artic to oyster famers on the west coast of the US, to those who find themselves in the paths of increasingly extreme droughts, floods or hurricanes. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that while we are past the point of avoiding change altogether, we have the means to limit climate change and build a more prosperous, sustainable future. With this in mind, the scientific conference will assess a wide variety of evidence-based solutions.
“Our future depends on the linkages we build between science and policy”, explained Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, in her welcoming message. “It depends on the relation we build between science and society. (…) Climate change is much more than a scientific and technical challenge - it is a human, social, ethical challenge that is nourished by scientific thinking.”
To respond to the multiple dimensions of climate change-related issues, the programme of the conference takes a step by step approach from the latest knowledge to collective action and transformative solutions, with an emphasis on transdisciplinary and integrative approaches. Participants came from over 100 countries, representing a wide range of disciplines. “You are bringing today, from all over the world, the solutions we need to prepare for the future”, said Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, French Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research.
Speakers of the opening plenary session also included Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, Ségolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy the chairs of the Conference, Flavia Schlegel, UNESCO Assistant Director General for natural Science, and Jean Zouzel and Hervé le Treut, Chairs of the conference.
Minister Royal stressed that while climate change increases vulnerability, uncertainty and poverty, the transition towards a green, low carbon economy holds great potential for prosperity. “The question is no longer whether we should act, but how we should act”, she concluded, noting that scientists had a key role to play by identifying the most promising paths.
The conference is taking place at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. It includes over 140 session, organized around a different theme each day: State of Knowledge, Future Scenarios, Responding to the Challenges, and finally Collective Action and Transformative Solutions. The conference is organized under the umbrella of ICSU, Future Earth, UNESCO and major French research institutions, with the support of the French Government.