Despite the expectation that we will see progress on climate finance,
there are a number of people who are cynical about the outcome of COP
19. Every year around this time, as we settle in for UN climate talks,
an army of pundits come out and tell us why we will not see anything of
great consequence from the negotiations. They usually end up being
right, even if their attitudes are dead wrong.
With current atmospheric carbon readings around 400 parts per
million, it is not hard to see why they are so pessimistic.
Concentrations of CO2 have increased by 40 percent since pre-industrial
times and global average temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius
(1.4 Fahrenheit) since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. WMO
secretary general Michel Jarraud
recently indicated that growing levels of anthropogenic greenhouse
gases (GHGs) mean “our climate is changing, our weather is more extreme,
ice sheets and glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.” Given
our current trajectory, temperatures are set to increase well beyond the
upper threshold of 2C (3.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.
The nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC
convened in Warsaw on November 11 and runs until November 20. According
to the 2012 Doha Climate Gateway, the timetable for a universal climate agreement is 2015, but it will only come into effect in 2020.
In the twenty years since climate change became a global policy
priority, we have yet to find a way to secure a binding deal on
mitigation. It is understandable why so many environmentally concerned
citizens feel betrayed by the successive failures to address the climate
crisis. However, given the magnitude of the threat we face, we do not have the luxury of behaving like jilted
lovers. The UN climate negotiations are the best hope we have of
reigning in climate change and without popular support, we are even less
likely to succeed.
No matter how long it takes, we need to tirelessly press our
political leaderships to act. The reasons why we must be so doggedly
determined should be obvious, we simply cannot afford to fail.
As the most powerful storm ever to make landfall, Typhoon Haiyan
graphically illustrates why we urgently need immediate action to reduce
climate change causing greenhouse gases. We need concerted
international action that can only come through global negotiations.
This is indeed a Herculean undertaking, but as demonstrated by the
carnage in the Philippines, we cannot accept the cataclysmic implications of failure.
If we are to succeed, we must stand together as a community of
nations, which is a difficult task at the best of times. We are being
driven together by a powerful impetus, namely the right of future
generations to inhabit an earth that is livable. No one said it would be
easy, but it is work that must be done.
A key part of this collaborative effort entails some form of climate
finance and here we have reason to be hopeful that we will see progress
at COP 19. Developed nations are mainly responsible for climate change
and they are expected to move forward with provisions that will allocate
funds for developing countries to help them with mitigation and
New institutional support for developing nations in finance,
adaptation and technology will include progress on the Green Climate
Fund (GCF), loss and damage mechanisms, compensation and adaptation
funds. All of which were agreed in 2010 at the Cancun climate talks (COP
Added support for climate finance comes from two reports shared with delegates at COP 19. Typhoon Haiyan underscores why the developing world must help. If all goes well, we will be on the road to seeing these issues
finalized at the Paris climate conference in 2015 and developing nations
will make good on their $100 billion a year promise by 2020.
Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, reiterated this point, saying that she
believes COP 19 can make progress on GCF.
“We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move
towards low-carbon development,” she said. “We must launch the
construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond
to the unanticipated effects of climate change.”
During the opening session of the Summit, Mr. Yeb Sano, the lead negotiator of the Philippines, demanded real commitments on climate finance.
“What my country is going through as a result of this
extreme climate event is madness. The climate crisis is madness,” Sano
said. “We call on this COP to pursue work until the most meaningful
outcome is in sight – until concrete pledges have been made to ensure
mobilization of resources for the Green Climate Fund; until we see real
ambition on stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations. We must put the
money where our mouths are.”
Developed nations should also lead the effort to phase out fossil
fuels, adopt energy efficient technology, shift towards renewable energy
and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. This is the type of leadership
that will help less developed nations move in the right direction.
The U.S. must lead because it is both the richest country on the
planet and the biggest cumulative contributor of climate change causing
greenhouse gases. President Obama and the Democrats are trying to
mitigate and adapt to climate change. For their part, Republicans
continue with their denial and they are likely to ignore pleas for
action. This effectively precludes any hope for legislative progress
before at least 2014.
The urgency of action is supported by reams of science, not the least
of which is the latest IPCC AR5 document. However, the sad truth is
that those who most need to understand the science are the least
interested in the facts.
Nonetheless, we must not allow the heartless self interest of the GOP
to undermine our efforts. Quite the contrary, their intransigent
partisanship should bolster our efforts to expose them for what they
are, an impediment to climate progress.
It is true that we are very unlikely to secure a binding global
agreement before 2015, if at all. Global leaders have failed to grasp
the urgency of the threat and take immediate bold action. After several
years with little progress, many are left feeling understandably
Sano challenged this lethargy and urged his fellow negotiators to
take a bold stance. “[L]et Warsaw, be remembered as the place where we
truly cared to stop this madness.” Sano said. “Can humanity rise to this
occasion? I still believe we can.” To highlight his dedication, Sano is
fasting as he awaits a successful outcome.
We may have to settle for another small, but meaningful step forward,
but this should not erode our support for the COP process. We are less
likely to succeed if there is a widespread expectation of failure.
Popular support buoys negotiations while public indifference or outright
cynicism detracts from their ability to get things done.
We must strive to build a better future with an unshakable tenacity.
The message that needs to be heard in Warsaw must affirm the belief that
we can get this done. However, we must make it emphatically clear that
we will accept no more delays and we demand bold movement toward a
Because we so desperately need to see results in Warsaw, it is
incumbent upon all who have the audacity to hope that we press our
elected officials and those at the negotiating table to work tirelessly
to secure a deal.
Some of the cynical pundits will be quick to say that there is no
chance that we will ever see a comprehensive global treaty. They may be
right, but we must not let realism temper our advocacy. We are engaged
in the most important struggle our civilization has ever known. The fact
that we may not succeed should not be an excuse for inaction. Even if
it amounts to tilting at windmills, tilt we must, till the very last.
Source: Global Warming is Real
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IPCC AR5 WGll Report: An Impending Climate Catastrophe
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The Philippine’s Climate Negotiator Delivers Typhoon Haiyan Inspired Message at COP 19/CMP 9
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IPCC AR5 WGl Summary: Headline Statements from the Summary for Policymakers
Background of the IPCC’s Latest Climate Report
The Science in the 2013 IPCC Report: Unequivocal Evidence of Anthropogenic Climate Change
Non-Profit Groups and Scientists React to the Fifth IPCC Report
The Business Community Responds to the 2013 IPCC Report
UN and US Political Reactions to the 2013 IPCC Report
IPCC Charts: Surface Temperatures, Sea Levels and CO2
Greenpeace Report – Dealing in Doubt: A Chronicle of Climate Denial
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