Saturday, December 12, 2009

COP15: summary of Week One of climate conference

Well, the first week of the Copenhagen Climate Conference is coming to a close and it has been an interesting but perhaps frustrating and disappointing week. And maybe that was to be expected, given the range of issues at hand and the number of players and various agendas involved.

The expectations placed on this event have been monumental. On the face of it, here was an opportunity for many nations - big and small, rich and poor - to come together and discuss issues that transcend those of boundaries or international status, to address problems of a truly worldwide magnitude. Add to that, though, the behind-the-scenes politics of various interested parties: energy industries, oil and coal, retail corporations - all those that could be impacted by more stringent environmental regulations, and the pressure is on.

Going into the conference, some of the low points were the U.S. Senate's watered-down version of climate change legislation (recommending what amounts to only a 4% cut in CO2 emissions), the stink about tainted climate change data (whether actually exaggerated or simply comments taken out of context), and the fact that several leaders from major countries were delaying their arrival until next week.

So this first week consisted of presentations and discussions involving leading scientists, ecologists, economists, and some government representatives, in addition to a lot of positioning on the part of many nations - including smaller, poorer nations that are already feeling the impact of climate change - in preparation for what will hopefully be some serious headway regarding a meaningful treaty.

And one of the biggest roadblocks to reaching that accord appears to be growing between the concerns of the larger, more wealthy and developed nations (those that have been responsible for generating most of the climate changing effects) and the smaller or poorer nations (who have been feeling the impact the most on their lands and their people). For the more developed nations, it's an issue of the economic impacts in changing their ways; for the less-developed nations, it's more a matter of survival. (Read related TIME article on the issue of water coming from the Himalayan glaciers, known as the "third pole", and how it's loss could destabilize the entire Asian region.)

As an example, the Alliance of Smaller Island Nations has put forth very strong climate change proposals as they see a greater threat to their existence with rising sea levels. There is also an ongoing debate between nations regarding compensation from the chief "polluting" nations to those smaller nations that will be most impacted. Culpability, responsibility for the past, and equating such into monetary terms - a touchy subject indeed. This rich/poor, polluter/victim divide may be a major issue in the conference's concluding week.

If you want to catch up on what's going on in Copenhagen, here are a couple of articles or news sources:

No comments: