In the News: After Copenhagen, What’s Next?

Officially the Copenhagen Climate Conference was known as COP 15, or “Conference of the Parties” and this was the 15th meeting of these “parties” since 1992. No, this isn’t your neighborhood “block party” or even your old fashion “garden party”, or after work “happy hour” party event. This is one of those “only in the United Nations” events where signatories to a UN agreement called the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change “UNFCC” meet each year to review their progress. So, the fact that 119 heads of state came to this “party” either means this particular party “was pretty extraordinary” or those countries really felt it was an important place to be. Scientific data collected, analyzed and reviewed through “peer reviewed studies” more than suggests that the political process needs to WAKE UP and figure out how to address what the scientific data is showing us.

The only binding agreement to come out of the UN COP process was the Kyoto Protocol, agreed to in 1997 in Kyoto (hence the name), and ratified in 2005. It committed “signatories” to “reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% by 2012 against 1990 levels.” Important “non signatories” to this agreement were, among others, China and the USA. Until late in 2009, it was hoped that China and the USA, the two countries accounting for over 40% of the human caused greenhouse gases in our atmosphere would be “party” to whatever came out of COP 15, or the Copenhagen Conference. Turns out they were at the party and did sign on to the final “accord”, but as expected and as we were told a few months before the Copenhagen “party” there would be no binding agreements at Copenhagen. The Copenhagen document was a political accord, where signatories basically agreed that the climate crisis is a “crisis”, requiring coordinated action. But, it was recognized that the problems we face are incredibly complicated, requiring more time before  countries can move forward and work towards solving this crisis.

Move forward to where and under what time frame and whose rules are still some of the unanswered questions. Will these questions be answered at COP 16, slated for Mexico in late November 2010, or COP 17, in 2011 or finally COP 18, in 2012, the year the Kyoto Protocol expires; and at this point will it already be too late? Will there be some sort of agreement amongst the major greenhouse gas producers, excluding the UN, and if so when and where? Stay tuned as we follow the process, and try to help you understand it, as we move through 2010.

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