This article outlines the details of the accord reached in Paris by almost 200 nations and in a related article a day later entitled Canada faces tough realities to reach Paris climate change target McCarthy and Bill Curry describe the challenges Canada faces in meeting the agreement.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

World issues, environmental studies, politics

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What were the major decisions made?
  • What are the expected outcomes of these decisions?
  • What significance do these decisions and agreements have for Canada?

New Terminology:

Aspirational goal

Materials Needed:

No specific requirements

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

After decades of squabbling and frustrated efforts among nations the Paris Agreement, as it is becoming known, has finally been able to establish a commitment from 195 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Many are heralding this as a game-changing accomplishment, while others are warning that it does not go far enough. In essence, the agreement sees all countries vowing to reach peak emissions as soon as possible and “to undertake rapid reductions thereafter”. It requires each country to do what it can to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and establishes an aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees. Countries must report their actions every five years and it is meant to be legally binding on all nations although this has no enforcement strategy. Despite these shortcomings this agreement is seen as a major breakthrough which should spark the renewable energy sector, leading to even faster development of alternative energy and cleaner use of fossil fuels.

This agreement, rather than being an end to a long hard struggle, is simply the beginning. Much lies ahead, with many challenges which will challenge political will and test the mettle of countries.

This lesson will have the students look briefly at the outcomes of the Paris conference, decide whether they are encouraged or disappointed by the outcomes, and to look at the challenges that face Canada as it finally makes a serious effort to address climate change.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Ask the students to identify as many outcomes of the Paris Climate Conference, known as COP 21, as they can.
  • Once they have exhausted their list, divide the class into groups of five or six and provide them with copies of the first article entitled, “Paris climate accord marks shift toward low-carbon economy”.
  • Have them read the article and, coupling it with the information they generated earlier, ask them to discuss and decide whether their group is pleased and encouraged by the developments in Paris or disappointed and concerned. Have them prepare reasons for their position.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Allow the groups time to complete the task while reserving enough time for each group to report, followed by a discussion of the findings and an additional task of examining what challenges lie ahead for Canada in meeting these commitments.
  • Have the groups, in turn, report their decision to the class and respond to any questions or challenges posed.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

The students will be able to:

  • Identify the key outcomes of the Paris Conference
  • Explain why they are encouraged or disappointed by these outcomes
  • Explain what challenges Canada faces in meeting its obligations.

Confirming Activity:

  • Once the groups have reported and responded to the class, conclude this part of the lesson by holding a plenary session to see if there is a general class consensus about the success of the Paris Conference.
  • With this concluded, ask the groups to consider what challenges they see ahead for Canada as it seeks meaningful action to address climate change.
  • Get the responses of the groups and then provide them with a copy of the second article entitled, “Canada faces tough realities to reach Paris climate change target.”
  • Allow them time to read it and then, as a concluding activity for the lesson, ask for any comments or insights they may have as a result of reading this article.