World leaders are meeting about climate change in Paris. Our region is well represented at the conference.

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Politicians, diplomats, activists and journalists have converged on Paris for the United Nations conference on climate change, where the world’s leaders will try to broker a deal to reduce emissions and slow the planet’s warming.

What is the conference, exactly, and who is representing the Northwest? Here are four key questions and answers.

What’s it about?

World leaders, including more than 130 heads of state, are meeting in Paris to decide how to address climate change and create a global plan reduce emissions.

Its official name is the Conference of Parties (#COP21) and it continues through Dec. 11. National Geographic calls the event “two of the most important weeks in our planet’s future.

Climate summit coverage

 

Whatever agreement arises will not likely limit emissions to 2°C — a limit widely endorsed by governments in 2009, as Vox explains. (Scientists believe the effects of global warming become less manageable beyond 2°C.)

Instead, some want the deal to include periodic reviews that would give countries opportunities to increase their commitment to curtailing emissions and combating climate change, ClimateWire reports.

Who’s there from the NW?

Seattle will be well represented, with politicians at the state, county and city level on hand in Paris.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee leaves for Paris Friday as one of more than two dozen Washingtonians who will attend the conference. Inslee during the last legislative session pushed a bill that would cap emissions and create a market for companies to exceed emission limits. The bill made little progress in the Legislature, and Inslee instead directed the state Department of Ecology to create emission rules under the state Clean Air Act.

King County Councilmember Larry Phillips will bring the county’s climate-action plan to the conference.

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien will travel to Paris, as well.

On Monday, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced a clean-energy fund that aims to boost clean-energy research. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which calls Seattle its headquarters, recently sold off some of its fossil-fuel investments.

Just how bad are things?

The effects of global warming are more tangible now than they were in 1997, when world leaders struck a deal on global warming in Kyoto, Japan. As The Associated Press points out: Sea levels have risen nearly 2½ inches, the average glacier has lost nearly 40 feet of ice thickness and weather and climate disasters worldwide have increased 42 percent since 1997.

Climate leaders, including former Vice President Al Gore, are optimistic about the conference.

What deals might be brokered?

The biggest questions world leaders face: Who will take the largest step in curtailing emissions, and will any agreement be binding? Should developed, wealthy countries that have been longtime polluters have to do more than developing countries?

President Obama said Tuesday that the review process of the climate deal should be legally binding, though he faces stiff opposition from Republicans in Congress.