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Climate Change: Preparing a New Protocol

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 04:38 PM EDT

Climate change movement: From Kyoto (and Bali) to Copenhagen.

The ongoing negotiations for a process on tackling global warming -as a result of emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). A process that is hardly affecting the planet’s ecosystems.

The Copenhagen Conference will number 15 of the UNFCCC meetings -the Contracting Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, signed in Rio de Janeiro during the Earth Summit in June 1992. And it is the result of the plenary sessions, as agreed at the 14th UNFCCC meeting in Bali in December 2007. The Conference will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark and will last two weeks from 7 December to 18 December 2009.

The first round of negotiations this year took place in Bonn, 29 March-8 April. The second meeting took place in Bonn, 1-12 June. Three further sessions will be held prior to Copenhagen: 10-14 August in Bonn (informal meeting); 28 September-9 October in Bangkok and 2-6 November in Barcelona.

As a major contribution to policy decision making at the conferences mentioned above -as well as those to come- the task done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has great importance. The IPCC is based in Geneva and it has been created by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. It should be noted that in 2007 the IPCC received the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, former U.S. Vice President.

One thing is clear: the Climate Change Conference is a major event, which will lead to the Protocol of Copenhagen (the first time it was officially named as such in May 2009) to combat global warming . The meeting will be attended by representatives of 170 countries, along with members of NGOs, the media and several other participants; it will be joined by some 8,000 people.

As background to the Copenhagen Conference, and despite their large deviations on forecasts of world food in the 1970s, when severe famines predicted failed to happen however -thanks to Norman Borlaug’s “Green Revolution”- it comes to my mind a comment from demographer Paul Ehrlich, the father of “The Population Bomb“ (1968): Genetically, we have barely evolved since the days of Aristotle. We do not have the fate of the fruit fly, which in a matter of weeks is able to “evolve” and develop resistance to DDT. Ten generations of homo sapiens take 200 years to die out. Cultural change is much faster and unpredictable.

Hope is the last to be lost, but I have serious doubts … The truth is this: we have been dreadful planet administrators to date. We have altered ecosystems and the atmosphere to the point of endangering the conditions that make Earth habitable. We came to create a smaller version of the planet in the desert of Arizona, Biosphere 2, and we saw what happened: the experiment ended in a complete fiasco. Meanwhile, we have overpopulated the Earth and have overexploited natural resources. Now we are altering the climate, and though we have scientific evidence and assume that we are intelligent, we have done virtually nothing to change our behavior.

But we will see that, once again, hope is not lost and the hope is Copenhagen. Because the Danish capital should be the scene where an agreement must be reached to clarify, among others, the level of ambition in the global fight against climate change. To do this, all countries should agree global reduction targets on a long-term basis. The European Union has already put its proposal and considers that global emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced by 50 percent in 2050 compared to the levels in 1990. Achieving these goals will require substantial effort on the part of developed countries, but these may not reduce alone emissions enough. If industrialized countries are to maintain leadership in the fight against climate change, emerging countries will also develop projects according to their capacities and circumstances, as well -especially the large economies as China and India.

It’s worth noting the importance of innovative financing instruments that are being analyzed, and that must be structured according to existing mechanisms, such as the newly created Climate Investment Fund at the World Bank. Also initiatives to access to new technologies need to be implemented , according to the code of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) whose statutes were approved by 25 countries -of a total of 125 high level representatives.

The initial approach of the Copenhagen Conference is done today, the second and final issue of this paper will refer to the probable issues of success and/or fiasco.

Climate change movement: From Kyoto (and Bali) to Copenhagen - I. Preparing a new protocol