Tag: United Nations

Beyond Borders: Progress on a Global Level

Two experienced UNFCCC activists explain how to become “climate smarties” and create a fair, effective and ambitious global climate deal.

Generally, when we discuss the effects that greenhouse gases have on the world’s atmosphere, we prefer the term climate change. Global warming simply isn’t an accurate description. But we do like one thing about this description: it reminds us that the problem we face isn’t just local or national, it’s global. Humanity is experiencing a global problem -- and that problem requires a global solution.

The United Nations has a very important part to play in fighting climate change. It provides a forum for governments to work together, and hammer out solutions to international problems. Global problem- solving is a long, slow process -- and a thankless one a lot of the time. You may have read news articles about the countless international conferences on global warming and wondered what goes on at those meetings. Different nations bring competing agendas to the table; representatives from all nations must overcome language and cultural barriers; and national governments face pressures at home from business, organized labor, and opposition parties. The world’s glaciers may be receding faster than international agreements can move forward.

And yet, despite all the impediments, the world’s nations make progress. Even better, sometimes they enjoy huge successes, such as the international agreement to stop the destruction of the ozone layer. Our world today is a safer place because of global agreements.

Global agreements hold countries accountable for certain actions and give nations a set of rules enforced through United Nations international law.

The world’s governments have been struggling with climate change for more than 20 years. The process has been painfully slow, and those governments still have a lot to do. But, right from the start, every country (well, almost every country) agreed that no one nation can solve the problem of climate change alone.

Why Global Agreements Are Important

Countries can do a lot to tackle global warming individually, as we discuss in Chapter 10. But the problem is far too great, and the solutions are far too complex, for countries to attempt to address climate change on their own. Each country is responsible for a portion of greenhouse gas emissions and has the ability to reduce global emissions anywhere from a fraction of a percentage up to 25 percent. But it is only with a collective effort that global emission can be reduced 50 to 80 percent. The world needs a global agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions and fight climate change.

Excerpted from Global Warming for Dummies, Elizabeth May and Zoe Caron (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

The Week Ahead

Last week there was much talk of elephants in the room.

Today, ECO chooses to highlight members of the cat family. The UNFCCC process is crawling forward like a timid kitten but the pace must accelerate to cheetah-like speed at once if effective actions are to be taken in Copenhagen.

The first observation on last week’s sessions is that after many weeks of “negotiations” this process can move forward. But movement is not enough. We need speed, focus and intention. And needless to say, the texts are still way too long and the steps so far are way too small.

Second, we need to see the political commitment and ambition expressed by national leaders in New York last month flowing into the text, rather than marking time and holding off the necessary steps to consolidate, clarify and consolidate yet again. ECO urges delegates to keep in mind that each step sorting through the different options steers the process either towards a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, or towards a weak and empty deal which will get us nowhere. Every choice counts.

There is something else that needs to happen this week outside the UN Conference Centre. Heads of state and government should be clearing their calendars to attend the climate summit in Copenhagen. Their personal presence will signal that countries and leaders are willing to deliver the commitments required for a fair and effective global climate deal.

The current sad state of the discussions around finance and developed country mitigation action illustrate the very wide gap between low ambition of the offers on the table and the necessity of a high ambition outcome in Copenhagen.

This coming week is the time for negotiators to focus on accelerating their work significantly, sharpening the text and moving into full negotiations mode. To begin with, facilitators should be given latitude to consolidate text further. But there is one caution: shortening text by cutting out the ambitious options does not count as improvement at all.

Turning to the Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) text in particular, ECO finds the following fresh footprints amidst the humdrum repetition of longstanding positions.

• Improvement and shortening of the technology text

• New clarity and progression in the adaptation text

• Commencement of shortening of

1(b)(ii) text

• Submission of the finance text for a round of consolidation after a positive political discussion

• Shortening and significant improvement of the REDD text

However, these are still the actions of a kitten’s hesitant forays into the bright new world. Delegates this week should start building up speed and sprinting like the cheetah with no delay.

[Article published in Climate Action Network's Eco Newspaper, Oct. 5, 2009 from Bangkok, Thailand UNFCCC negotiations - full PDF version here]

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