Hello from COP17, Durban!

I’m here at the United Nations Climate Convention Conference of Parties (COP), which is now its 17th year. My first COP was last year, where I was the lead of a student delegation from my UCSD graduate program, IR/PS. These are MEGA conferences with 10’s of thousands of people. Anyone and everything to do with climate change gravitates here. Policymakers. Negotiators. NGOs. Media. Business leaders. Activists.

Though expectations reached an all-time high with Copenhagen (COP-15) in 2009, the hopeful were left bewildered as efforts to establish a framework for the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol took a back seat to the global financial crisis.  My friend and mentor, David Victor (UCSD faculty), published an amazing book titled, “Beyond Global Gridlock”. To understand why Kyoto missed the green mark, and why an effective global climate change policy is so elusive to even our planet’s brightest minds, you must read David Victor’s book.

Of course, like most, I would love to see a binding agreement sooner rather than later. However, the “Durban Accords”, like the Cancun Accords, will likely be a commitment to continue to engage in the process, not a push for a tangible result. Even this modest prediction may be too optimistic. Numerous countries are already threatening to breakaway from Kyoto; namely, Canada, Japan, and Russia. The United States, though positive about the goals of reducing global emissions, has always remained on the regulatory sidelines. The EU sits at the center of the effort to mitigate, looking for core support from other major economies. And it is left wanting.

Meanwhile, the trajectory of global emissions and the plight of the vulnerable countries (i.e. food security, access to water, flooding, etc) are becoming exceedingly worse.

Broadly, the topics being intensely debated at this conference are: How can the global community launch the second round of Kyoto commitments? What will replace the Kyoto Protocol and will all major economies participate? How to finance the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to reach US$100bn/year by 2020? Can reduced emissions thru deg. and deforest. (REDD+) improve gender equality? What to do about clean technology transfer, including a clear definition?

Come along with me to explore these issues, learn of new innovations and meet the individuals working to save our planet and our quality of life.

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