UNFCCC Meets on Climate Change
Global warming is the biggest single environmental threat humanity has ever faced, because every aspect of our lives will be affected by it, according to Greenpeace USA Media Officer Daniel Kessler. “It is the chaos that is going to come from climate change that is the most fearful — that we don’t know what to expect. We have models and projections but we’re messing with a system that’s much bigger and much more complex than we could ever understand,” he said.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is holding the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) in Poznań, Poland, December 1 through 12. The goal of UNCCC is to prepare for the final Conferences of the Parties (COP), which will establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists almost universally agree that greenhouse gases are the major cause of global warming and that human activities are largely responsible for the excess of these gases in our atmosphere.
This is the fourteenth conference of the 192 Parties to the UNFCCC and the fourth meeting of the 183 Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, making it the halfway mark in negotiations on a future international agreement.
Without greenhouse gases, which trap heat from escaping into space, the earth would be too cold to inhabit. Yet, with the current excessive production, the atmosphere is in danger of becoming too hot for many sensitive species to survive, and weather patterns are becoming increasingly volatile.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the effects of climate change are limitless. What we do know, and can now observe, is that global warming causes extreme weather, de-stabilized local climates, disappearing glaciers, rising sea levels, higher temperatures, acidified oceans, and the destruction of certain ecosystems.
Since its initial non-binding agreement in 1992, at what is popularly called the “Earth Summit,” the member countries of the UNFCCC have been working toward establishing mandatory limits for greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is “preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system,” according to the UNFCCC’s Article 2.
While the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro encouraged nations to voluntarily agree to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol required it. Although a member of the UNFCCC, the United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol.
The UNFCCC is only a year away from legally establishing the ambitious global climate agreement in Copenhagen, Denmark to help combat climate change. The global climate agreement that will be established at the COP will go into effect in 2013, a year after expiration of the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.
According to the UNFCCC Poznań – COP 14 fact sheet, parties in association with the UNFCCC will take stock of progress made in combating climate change in 2008 and map out in detail what needs to happen in 2009.
The conference will also focus on how to reduce emissions from deforestation in developing countries and will explore to what extent the Kyoto Protocol’s clean development mechanism can be streamlined and its geographical reach extended.
The UNFCCC said that the new global climate agreement will take the stabilization of greenhouse gases one step further than the Kyoto Protocol did, because it will mandate that greenhouse gas emissions be kept at a certain level.
“Emission quotas defined by the Kyoto Protocol are no longer simple numbers on paper — they are a part of real-time operation of the global carbon market,” Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Yvo de Boer said in a press release. “We see the carbon market working and this is an important message.”
Approximately 9,000 participants will attend the two-week-long event in Poland. Attendees include government delegates and representatives of environmental organizations, research institutions, businesses, and industries.
In order to brainstorm solutions on how to combat the effects of climate change, Kessler said, Greenpeace USA sent 45 delegates and experts to offer consultation on various issues that aggravate global warming. These issues include greenhouse gases caused by deforestation, transportation, and fossil fuel consumption. Tropical deforestation alone is responsible for approximately 20% of world greenhouse gas emissions, according to Fondation Chirac.
Kessler said that Greenpeace USA is especially concerned about deforestation, because many underdeveloped countries continue to add to global warming through the destruction of their forests. “We want to give lesser developed countries incentive to keep their forests standing and developed countries incentive to help the other countries,” he said. “This will have a positive impact globally and help combat climate change.”
Other changes also must be made, however, in order to adequately reduce the effects that climate change will have. Kessler said he hopes Americans will be able to learn more about renewable resources and cleaner burning from European countries, such as Denmark, because they are more advanced in energy-efficient technology. “We are on our way to becoming more energy efficient — but what we really want now is for the United States to catch up,” he said.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)