UN Climate Conference Falls Short, Very Short
For the past two weeks, heads of state gathered in Doha, Qatar, for the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP-18) organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This annual conference brings together representatives from every country in the world to negotiate how the global community will respond to the dangers associated with climate change. The complicated and sometimes draining convention is supposed to give countries the tools to deal with the impacts of climate change head on. While COP-18 did take some steps to address some issues, including the formation of a new commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, the summit did not produce the bold action that we need to meet the urgency of the climate crisis.
The impacts of unchecked global climate change were front and center even before COP-18 started in Doha. Just a few weeks before the conference, scientific reports demonstrated that the world is dangerously close to blowing past the aggregate emissions levels that would keep temperature rise below 2⁰C before 2020. Extreme weather events also became the norm in 2012, culminating with Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc from the Caribbean to Maine, and Typhoon Bopha, which caused massive devastation throughout the Philippines and Palau. All of these events highlighted the need for immediate, monumental action by governments of the world. While COP-18 offered an opportunity to begin to stabilize our climate, the results did not live up to the challenge.
In Doha, countries did agree to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding international agreement to lower greenhouse gas emissions. However, Canada, Japan, Russia, and New Zealand all joined the United States on the sidelines as they backed out of the new requirements. Current Kyoto Protocol countries also made pitifully weak emissions-reduction commitments that can be reevaluated in 2014 and upgraded if necessary. Climate financing also saw no progress.
There is still no clear pathway on how nations will be able to access the $100 billion Green Climate Fund. This money will be instrumental for developing nations to combat the disproportionate affects they will experience because of climate change. One of the few positives from Doha was the agreement on the general work plan of the Durban Platform which is supposed to lead to a legally binding agreement for all nations by 2015.
After two weeks of grueling negotiations, governments have once again delivered a vague outcome document that calls for increased ambition in the future but does nothing to address the climate change issues that we face today.
Right now, the most significant action to mitigate climate change is happening on the local level, in communities all over the world. Organizations, entrepreneurs, businesses, individuals, and state and local governments are working to find solutions and adapt to our changing planet. While world leaders may be willing to wait until 2020, the grassroots is not. When it comes to climate change, the world can no longer wait for our governments to catch up.