Over 150 years of industrial activity has taken its toll, leaving the people with a narrow window to avoid catastrophic climate change—and make a dramatic shift towards a low-carbon society.
The 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change begins on Monday at 10 a.m., according to its Web site. It will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark and will continue until Dec. 18. Over 15,000 people including negotiators, titans of industry, scientists, faith groups, ministers and world leaders are assembling in Copenhagen.
According to the Web site, goals of the conference are to create ideas to keep global warming levels under the dangerous 2C mark, developing technology to do so and providing financial basis for these goals. It is also described as “more or less the last chance to achieve an agreement” that would replace the Kyoto Protocol with a new treaty.
Adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement created by the U.N. that formed legally binding goals for 37 industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gases, according to the Web site. While the Protocol commits these countries to the stabilization of GHG emissions, the Convention can only encourage them to do so. The Fifth session of the Conference of the Parties will be serving as the meeting to the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012.
However, according to articles in the New York Times, the U.S. is one of the few nations which never ratified the treaty, which did not take effect until 2005. China and India did, but were also excluded from several requirements as developing countries.
Rene Baker, 22, a senior psychology major, has been reading about plans for the conference and said that there are more issues at hand than people realize.
“Doing something about climate change is easier said than done,” Baker said. “Tons and tons of money needs to go into making change and no one country can do it by themselves—not even us. There’s been debate if there even is climate change, or if this conference will help. I say ‘yes’ on both accounts. We have to wait and see what happens.”
The Web site also explains that industrialized nations like the U.S., UK and Japan, along with emerging countries like China and India, emit by far the most carbon and are subject to the most criticism. To date, each of these countries are leading the world in reduction goals-with the exception of the U.S, and the trend is expected to continue.
Ideally, according to the U.N., the world needs to cut emission levels – relative to those of 1990 – by 25 to 40 percent by 2010 and by 80 to 95 percent by 2050. Realistically, the U.S. will attempt to cut 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
Although it may be clear to leaders what actions need to be taken, it’s unclear how the goals should be reached and to what extent they should be enforced. The conference plans on defining stable and predictable financing to help the developing world reduce GHG emissions and adapt to the effects of climate.
However, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change says that not all parties involved agree with the goals. One possible course of action is for developing countries to limit the growth of their emissions and to parallel that with their sustainable development needs. This may indirectly be placing a “cap” on productivity levels, harming the county’s ability to grow economically.
Despite the reluctance of some countries to accept long term “handicaps,” the need to do so has been overwhelmingly documented, according to the International Energy Agency. If all industrialized countries stopped emitting GHGs, emissions from developing countries would make it impossible to stay under a two degree temperature rise by 2030.
Nepal’s government held a Cabinet meeting on Mt. Everest to expose firsthand the results of global warming, according to the Web site. The Conference also sees President Obama traveling to Copenhagen as a powerful statement. This is the first time an American administration has proposed an emissions reduction target, and the U.S. appears to be acknowledging the need for change and the will to work toward it.
Janelle Brunke, a 20-year-old junior business major, said the U.S. is taking a step in the right direction to help save the world.
“I think as a world leader, the U.S. should take the initiative to stop [global] warming,” Brunke said. “After all, we produce most of the greenhouse gases so shouldn’t it be our job to do that? At least cut down on how much we’re harming the Earth. Other countries are more committed than we are; we’re finally stepping up.”
For more information on the United Nations Climate Change Conference visit their Web site.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Adrian Kun at Adrian.firstname.lastname@example.org.