Although not all of them are publicised very well, the UN have been holding climate change talks pretty much every year for a while now. The question is, are they getting anywhere?
Copenhagen 2009 was a flop, the Earth Summit last year didn’t seem to do anything, and I didn’t even know COP18 took place on 8th December 2012, until now. Did it get anything done? Well, yes actually. I mean obviously it didn’t create an international, legally binding GHG reduction plan – that would have just been too sensible. But it did extend and amend the only protection the climate’s got at the moment: the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol distinguishes between developed and developing countries, and commits the developed ones to nationally reduce their GHG emissions. If they can’t do that, they’re allowed to join in with a kind of international trading scheme. There is no legal retribution for nations that fail, and although most nations are involved, the USA (the second largest emitter of CO2) opted out without any trouble. The protocol was agreed in 1997, didn’t come into effect until 2005, and then the first ‘commitment period’ was 2008 to 2012.
See how slow this stuff is? Anyway, weak as the Kyoto Protocol is, it’s the best we’ve got to work with so to let it end in 2012 would be catastrophic. Luckily in Doha, 8th December 2012, the conference of the parties decided to extend the Protocol and we’re now in the second ‘commitment period’: reaching from 2013 to 2020.
So what does that actually mean in terms of reductions?
According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):
During the first commitment period, 37 industrialized countries and the European Community committed to reduce GHG emissions to an average of five percent against 1990 levels.
5%? Great. What can they muster for the second period?
During the second commitment period, Parties committed to reduce GHG emissions by at least 18 percent below 1990 levels in the eight-year period from 2013 to 2020; however, the composition of Parties in the second commitment period is different from the first.
Ambition isn’t really their strong point it seems, but it’s better than nothing.
In 2020 the idea is to scrap this pussy-footing around the problem and actually create a legally binding plan. There’s a big conference planned for 2015 to create that plan, ready for it to come into effect as the Kyoto Protocol dies in 2020. And there’s already talks going on in Bonn, Germany, to discuss the 2015 meeting.
To be honest I think all of this should get more media coverage. I mean it does get covered, you can find newspaper articles about all of these conferences, but it isn’t shoved in our faces at every turn. At least, in the UK it isn’t. I really think the public should be kept abreast of all this stuff. But it’s not good enough to just know about it, we have to do something about it.
I’m asking all of you to write to your MP or other local official, underlining your concern that a binding agreement is reached asap. If you live in the UK, you can use this site to get your MP’s details.
But what we really need is people all around the world making a concerted effort to overwhelm local and national representatives with letters, emails, phone calls, demanding a true climate change action plan.
And it can’t be a one time thing, either. We need to snowball this to a deafening peak just before the conference in 2015.
Politicians will drag their feet, or worse, listen to the big corporations instead of us if we don’t shout loud and clear.
I’m going to write an email to my MP about this, I urge you to do the same.
The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/10/doha-climate-talks-global-warming
NRDC blog http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jschmidt/five_reasons_we_need_a_new_glo.html