Posted by: shipbright | December 1, 2009

What is COP 15 in Copenhagen and why do they call it HOPE-enhagen

From December 7 through December 18th in Copenhagen, Denmark the world will come together to discuss climate change at the 15th Conference Of the Parties [COP15].

What began as a cry of HOPE-enhagen is now either a continuation of foot-dragging and inaction by powerful industrialized nations protecting maturing fossil fuel dependent economies OR it is the setting up for substantive action at the next conference most likely to be held in Mexico City. It deserves our attention and it deserves our voice.  What is substantive and important is that the New York Times is reporting that the United States will have its President attend the opening of the conference and deliver the intention of the Obama Administration to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/26/us/politics/26climate.html

For background on global efforts here is a heavily edited condensed background on UN sponsored global climate change efforts: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Framework_Convention_on_Climate_Change]

 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was opened for signature at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro (the “Earth Summit”). On June 12, 1992, 154 nations signed the UNFCCC, that upon ratification committed signatories’ governments to a voluntary “non-binding aim” to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases with the goal of “preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with Earth’s climate system.” These actions were aimed primarily at industrialized countries, with the intention of stabilizing their emissions of greenhouse gases at 1990 levels by the year 2000. The parties agreed in general that they would recognize “common but differentiated responsibilities,” with greater responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the near term on the part of developed/industrialized countries.

On September 8, 1992, the US president George Bush transmitted the UNFCCC for advice and consent of the U.S. Senate to ratification. The Senate consented to ratification on October 7, 1992, with a two-thirds majority vote. President Bush signed the instrument of ratification October 13, 1992, and deposited it with the U.N. Secretary General. According to terms of the UNFCCC, having received over 50 countries’ instruments of ratification, it entered into force March 21, 1994.

Since the UNFCCC entered into force, the parties have been meeting annually in Conferences of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with climate change, and beginning in the mid-1990s, to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

1995 – COP 1, The Berlin Mandate: Spring 1995.  The first UNFCCC Conference of Parties voiced concerns about the adequacy of countries’ abilities to meet commitments under the Convention. These were expressed in a U.N. ministerial declaration known as the “Berlin Mandate”, which established a 2-year Analytical and Assessment Phase (AAP), to negotiate a “comprehensive menu of actions” for countries to pick from and choose future options to address climate change which for them, individually, made the best economic and environmental sense.

1996 – COP 2, Geneva, Switzerland: July 1996.  [a] Ministerial Declaration was adopted July 18, 1996, and reflected a U.S. position statement at that meeting, which:

• Accepted the scientific findings on climate change proffered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its second assessment (1995);

• Rejected uniform “harmonized policies” in favor of flexibility;

• Called for “legally binding mid-term targets.”

1997 – COP 3, The Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change: December 1997.  Most industrialized nations and some central European economies in transition agreed to legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of an average of 6 to 8% below 1990 levels between the years 2008-2012, defined as the first emissions budget period. The United States would be required to reduce its total emissions an average of 7% below 1990 levels, however neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration sent the protocol to Congress for ratification. The Bush administration explicitly rejected the protocol in 2001.

1998 – COP 4, Buenos Aires: November 1998

1999 – COP 5, Bonn, Germany: October 25-November 5, 1999

2000 – COP 6, The Hague, Netherlands: November 13-November 25, 2000.  The discussions evolved rapidly into a high-level negotiation over the major political issues. These included major controversy over the United States’ proposal to allow credit for carbon “sinks” in forests and agricultural lands; disagreements over consequences for non-compliance by countries that did not meet their emission reduction targets; and difficulties in resolving how developing countries could obtain financial assistance to deal with adverse effects of climate change and meet their obligations to plan for measuring and possibly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the final hours of COP 6 the EU countries as a whole rejected the compromise positions, and the talks in The Hague collapsed.

2001 – COP 6 continuation, Bonn, Germany: July 17-27, 2001.  This meeting took place after President George W. Bush had become the U.S. President, and had rejected the Kyoto Protocol in March; as a result the United States delegation to this meeting declined to participate in the negotiations related to the Protocol, and chose to act as observers at that meeting. As the other parties negotiated the key issues, agreement was reached on most of the major political issues, to the surprise of most observers given the low level of expectations that preceded the meeting.

2001 – COP 7, Marrakech, Morocco: October 29-November 10, 2001.  The United States delegation continued to act as observers, declining to participate in active negotiations. Other parties continued to express their hope that the United States would re-engage in the process at some point, but indicated their intention to seek ratification of the requisite number of countries to bring the Protocol into force (55 countries representing 55% of developed country emissions of carbon dioxide in 1990).

2002 – COP 8, New Delhi, India: October 23 – November 1, 2002

2003 – COP 9, Milan, Italy: 1 – 12 December, 2003

2004 – COP 10, Buenos Aires, Argentina: 6 – 17 December, 2004

2005 – COP 11/MOP 1, Montreal, Canada: November 28-December 9, 2005.  COP 11 was the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP-1) to the Kyoto Protocol since their initial meeting in Kyoto in 1997. It was therefore one of the largest intergovernmental conferences on climate change ever.

2006 – COP 12/MOP 2, Nairobi, Kenya: 6-17 November, 2006.  At the meeting, the phrase “climate tourists” was coined to describe some delegates who attended “to see Africa, take snaps of the wildlife, the poor, dying African children and women”.

2007 – COP 13/MOP 3, Bali, Indonesia: 3-15 December, 2007

2008 – COP 14/MOP 4, Poznań, Poland: 1–12 December, 2008

2009 – COP 15/MOP 5, Copenhagen, Denmark: 7-18 December, 2009.  The overall goal for the COP 15/MOP 5 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Denmark was to establish an ambitious global climate agreement for the period from 2012 when the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol expires. However, on November 14, 2009, the New York Times announced that “President Obama and other world leaders have decided to put off the difficult task of reaching a climate change agreement… agreeing instead to make it the mission of the Copenhagen conference to reach a less specific “politically binding” agreement that would punt the most difficult issues into the future.” It is expected that ministers and officials from 192 countries will take part in the Copenhagen meeting and that.  A binding agreement for the post-Kyoto period is now expected to be postponed, “possibly to a second summit meeting in Mexico City later on.”

Here is a link to the World Resources Institute and they have an excellent website regarding climate change and COP15:  http://www.wri.org/project/cop-15

Commentary:  What is truly significant about COP 15 is that the United States will send its President at the beginning of the conference and will be a full participant and not an observer.  Leadership is often about being symbolic as well as substantive.  The United States now has a leader that is demonstrating our intent to address climate change as opposed to sitting on the sidelines and watching the world grapple with these difficult and complex issues.  The past was not leadership, this is.  What remains to be seen is what will the United States follow through with regarding climate change.  The Obama Administration is proposing ~17%~ below 2005 levels by 2020 and ~83%~ by 2050…what actually will be ratified by the US Congress remains to be seen. 

I do look at the Copenhagen COP15 as HOPE-enhagen because the US President is showing the world by his presence that the United States is an engaged partner and not sniping from the sidelines.  Business and mercantile interests who used to protect the “Old Guard” economies are changing their mind [e.g. Exelon Corporation…see my previous posts] and challenging their American business community peers to address these issues.  It is time for America to embrace the global “green economy” because the environment and the economy are inextricably intertwined.

America has been thirsty for leadership that inspires and empowers, and is empowered, and which we can express in our business, political, non-governmental/non-profit, and personal actions everyday.  HOPE is a powerful force that makes us unique and we will manifest what we believe…raise your voice and be heard.

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