International Conference Works To Succeed Kyoto Protocol

Reader Contribution by Jessie Fetterling

The 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) begun Dec. 1 and will continue into next week in Poznan, Poland. This marks the halfway point for the COP to decide on a climate change agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The agreement process started last year in Bali, Indonesia and will hopefully end next year in Copenhagen, Denmark. However, many things have already changed since the COP met in 2007. This year has posed many economic challenges that will make it harder for the COP to come to an agreement. However, in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, an agreement must be made.  

If global warming temperatures grow 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, the impacts could be catastrophic. If nothing is done, according to an article in Common Dreams:

  • By 2050, 4.3 to 6.9 billion people — a majority of the population — would live in areas with severely stressed river basins.
  • About 20 to 30 percent of known species will be at a high risk of extinction.
  • The Greenland and West Antarctic icesheets could collapse, creating a rise in sea levels.

So far, at the COP 14, developing countries have asked for industrialized countries to show leadership and ambition in emission reductions. But the European Union (EU) may not be up to the challenge, according to the Worldwatch Institute. The EU, which proposed a 30-percent emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2020, is already having a difficult time passing their climate change package. Some countries are already backing out of their 30-percent commitments, even if there is an agreement in Copenhagen.

China and India also have already expressed that without climate equity, there may not be an agreement in 2009. If the 2009 agreement is consensus based, that means, without an agreement between all Parties there will be no deal.

On a more positive note, the United Kingdom recently agreed on a climate change bill that set a target of at least 42 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 with a Copenhagen agreement. Canada is also about to replace their current conservative party with a coalition government that is expected to be much more agreeable with climate change issues. And, with the Obama administration coming into office, the hopes are high for the United States to also commit to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 

While there is definite concern that an agreement may not be made by 2009, there is still eight days left in the conference for issues to be discussed. Hopefully that’s enough time for now.

For more information on the Poznan conference, check out the links below: