Sustainable Energy

Massive climate summit coming: What you need to know

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images | Moment | Getty Images

It's not just environmentalists and scientists concerned about climate change. In a speech at Lloyd's of London last night, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said that, "The challenges currently posed by climate change pale in significance compared with what might come."

Carney went on to explain that, "Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late," and added that, "While there is still time to act, the window of opportunity is finite and shrinking."

At the end of this year, leaders from around the world will convene in Paris for COP21 or, to give its full name: the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

COP21 will take place between November 30th and December 11th and carries huge significance when it comes to climate change and the future of our planet.

What's the big deal?

Described by its organisers as "crucial", COP21 will see the world's leaders, scientists, pressure groups and United Nations agencies attempt to thrash out, "a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius."

Why should you care?

An ancient Japanese art is transforming solar power

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), "the world is at a critical juncture in its efforts to combat climate change."

The consequences of global warming and climate change could be significant and lasting.

"With global mean temperature rising above 2 degrees centigrade, the risk for triggering large-scale changes in the Earth system, so-called tipping points, increases disproportionately and with it the very possibility to adapt to a changing environment," Daniel Klingenfeld, head of director's staff at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told CNBC via email.

Klingenfeld went on to explain how the planet could change. "Examples include abruptly shifting monsoon patterns, transformation of the Amazon rainforest into a seasonal forest, or the stability of the West-Antarctic Ice Sheet," he said.

"We should not be gambling with the planet – for our own sake," he added.

Here and now

Ian Waldie | Getty Images

What's more, the impact of global warming and climate change is already being felt across the planet.

The European Commission, for example, states that forest fires, droughts and heat waves are becoming more frequent in southern and central Europe, while northern Europe is becoming "significantly wetter."

The Commission also says that winter flooding in northern Europe could become a common occurrence in future years.

Too little, too late?

Earlier this month, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, struck a downbeat tone when she said that pledges being made by governments ahead of COP21 would not restrict global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

"I want that to be clear," she said, "Because I think it is unfair for public opinion to be misled and think that Paris will be a miraculous solution that takes us from where we are now, on the way to 4-5 degrees increase, to be all of a sudden on the way to this miraculous, wonderful, perfect target of 2 degrees. That is not the case."

Klingenfeld said that the target of 2 degrees Celsius was a compromise between something that would be "desirable" in terms of protecting the climate and achievable. "Even with a warming around 2 degrees Celsius, the adaptation challenges will be important and many ecosystems will come under high stress or be lost altogether, such as the majority of coral reefs," he said.

Klingenfeld added that it was still not clear whether humanity would be able to muster both the will and resources to act before it was too late.

Hope for the future?

"The international negotiations can only deliver as much as people, via their governments, are ready to contribute," Klingenfeld said. "The process of balancing the interests of countries worldwide has been slow and cumbersome," he added.

Klingenfeld went on to state that instead of waiting for top down actions, people could take steps themselves to try and mitigate climate change, citing the success of the fossil fuel divestment movement, which he said can trace its beginnings to universities in the U.S.

Klingenfeld said that the initiative had "gained traction at the global level."

"And no one is holding you back from changing behavior and adopting a more sustainable lifestyle," he added.