Updates: UN Climate Change Conference

Dec 8, 2002

The 15th annual International Climate Change Conference kicked off Monday, December 7 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Leaders from 192 countries will convene over the next two weeks to produce what we hope will be a strong international agreement on climate action which will replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

People all around the world have their eyes on Copenhagen and hopes remain high for a FAB (fair, ambitious and binding) global climate agreement by the end of the conference. Clean Air Carolina will be following the talks and will post updates to our blog regularly. Some of our NC allies are at the conference and will be keeping us informed with posts of the latest developments on their blogs. Be sure to check them out here: Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Blog, 1Sky Blog and Sierra Club’s Blog.

Tuesday, December 15
Today the climate summit hit a gridlock as negotiators struggle to come to an agreement on a financial plan for developed nations to help poorer nations mitigate and adapt to climate change. Former Vice President Al Gore spoke this afternoon calling for a July summit to finish the climate conversations on a climate treaty.

While the US and United Kingdom are advocating for carbon capture technology to be included in the international agreement, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) delayed it since some countries are showing concern over safety issues of long-term storage and the possibilities of carbon leakage in the future.

Meanwhile, Pop Benedict XVI has made a global call for immediate action on climate change.

Monday, December 14
Climate talks in Copenhagen came to a temporary halt early Monday after African countries and 135 other developing nations began a boycott in fear that the richest nations were weakening their commitments to reduce global emissions. Developing countries have a goal to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which penalized developed nations if they did not comply with emissions limits. They fear rich nations will kill such an extension under the Copenhagen agreement. The countries reportedly returned to the negotiations after reaching a “reasonable solution”.

While most attention has been on reductions of carbon dioxide, negotiators have also been working on greenhouse gases that are believed to constitute the other half of man’s contribution to global warming – methane and black carbon.  Read more here.

Former vice-president Al Gore spoke at an event in Copenhagen today about a new report on the rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet. “Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months will be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years,” Gore said. Read more here.

In attempt to show the world that the United States is serious about combating climate change, today the White House announced a new program to spend $350 million over five years to supply developing nations with clean energy technology. Read more here.

Friday, December 11
Today, an official draft on a climate agreement emerged calling for the world to reduce carbon emissions 50% by 2050. This draft agreement still has many holes to fill as many areas of the text have not been agreed upon.  Read the entire draft text here – text in brackets indicate an agreement still needs to be reached.

Thursday, December 10
Today President Obama humbly accepted his Nobel Peace prize; to read the full text of his speech click here. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, representing 43 countries across Africa, responded with a letter to Obama calling on him to “lead by example”, they write:

“As the world’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas concentrations, and as the world’s wealthiest nation, the United States has a singular duty to ensure that Africa is kept safe from the rising impacts of climate change.”

Read the full letter here.

Meanwhile, at the Bella Center where the international climate negotiations are taking place, it is “Youth and Future Generations Day” where hundreds of young activists demonstrated outside for strong climate action – “Yes we can, yes we must, yes we will”.

Inside the Center, the Alliance of Small Island States held a press conference crying out for global warming temperatures to be limited to nothing more than 1.5C above preindustrial levels and greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to 350ppm. The Alliance is calling on rich countries to “raise the bar of performance” as they continue to fight for the survival of their country and the population of their people. Next week, the Alliance will present their sustainability/energy package and actions they are taking to sustain their countries’ survival.

Wednesday, December 9
Today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson attended the UN conference and announced the United States’ recent findings that greenhouse gases pose a significant threat to public health and welfare and should be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Jackson told attendees of coming efforts to pass a climate bill through Congress that will reduce GHG emissions by more than 80% by 2050. Click here to read her entire speech.

Todd Stern, President Obama’s climate change envoy, also arrived at the conference today urging China to step up to the plate and commit to slowing carbon emissions.

The conference goal to keep average global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels is not strong enough for vulnerable countries like Africa and island nations. Protests against a 2 degrees limit have been reported with “2 Degrees is Suicide” chants from those who seek even lower targets to save their countries from increased temperatures that would cut crop yields and leave millions of people without adequate water. Click here to learn more.

Tuesday, December 8
On the second day of climate negotiations, the United Nation’s weather agency reported 2000-2009 as the warmest decade in recorded history. Heat mounted Tuesday as a new draft agreement (known as the “Danish Text”) written by developed nations behind closed doors circulated among delegations. Poor and under-developed countries are demanding billions of dollars from the developed world to help finance preparations for mitigation and adaptation strategies. These nations already suffering the burden of climate change are also expecting rich countries like the United States to adopt deep emission cuts under the international agreement and, according to the NY Times, may plan a “walk-out” if these measures aren’t taken.

Monday, December 7
The conference opened up with a compelling film “Please Help the World” and a welcoming address from the Prime Minister of Denmark. Following the Minister’s address, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri spoke of the urgency and pointed out the world has a “moral and material responsibility to do all it can” to slow climate change.  There are reports of peaceful demonstrations by Greenpeace and World Wildlife Federation activists as well as a booth sponsored by Google with an interactive map showing forest growth and deforestation around the world. Click here to watch a YouTube video about the booth from our friends at 1Sky.

Back home, the EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made an announcement today there is compelling scientific evidence that greenhouse gases endanger public health and must be reduced.  The EPA finding means they will proceed with preparations to regulate large producers of greenhouse gas emissions.  Those rules could take effect if congress doesn’t pass legislation. This announcement is expected to have big impacts on the climate talks in Copenhagen.  President Obama will join other world leaders at the negotiations on Friday, December 18, the last day of the conference.