Update: COP19 in Warsaw

For the past week and a half, delegates from over 180 countries have come together in Warsaw, Poland for the UNFCCC 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) to discuss the future of international climate change policy. These talks are incredibly important, as they will determine the future of global climate policy. The meetings are used to hash out technical details and specific language that will become the framework for international climate policy.

The Warsaw talks began with an impassioned speech by Yeb Sano, a Philippine climate negotiator, who pleaded for substantive talks in light of typhoon that devastated his country. Sano proceeded to initiative a hunger strike for climate action. He has now gone about a week without food, and hundreds of supporters around the world have joined him in fasting.

His actions have pushed the conversation about Loss and Damage Mechanisms (LDM) to the forefront. Still, negotiations about financing adaptation have been difficult. Some of the conversations have rightfully focused on the fact that climate-related extreme weather disproportionately affects less developed countries—the countries that contribute the least to global carbon emissions and climate change. The mechanism being used to finance damages and adaptations is known as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the less developed countries have been clear about the urgent need to fill the fund. The GCF is slated to have $100 billion (USD) by 2020, but currently only ten countries have pledged $7.55 million for the fund.

Gender equality has also been paramount at COP19. Yesterday was “Gender Day” at the conference, which highlighted the need for women’s participation and gender equity. Significant progress was made at COP18, where participants called for gender balance in the Secretariat and member delegations, but there is certainly more work to be done.

Land use has also been a topic of discussion, with talks focusing on Reducing Emissions from Degradation and Deforestation (REDD). Additionally, for the first time at a COP meeting, there has been discussion of agriculture. It seems that there is greater recognition of the role that land use plays in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In general, it seems negotiations are proceeding as they have in the past: at a slow and steady pace. Many of the objectives and goals set out by the Secretariat are being worked through, while others still have a ways to go.