The United Nations Climate Change Conference is underway in Copenhagen. Over the course of the 12 day summit, participants from 192 countries representing governments, the business community, and civil society will attempt to agree on “an ambitious, global agreement that meets the challenge set by science,” although many officials doubt that a solid treaty will be achieved. Instead, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, outlined these four questions, and feels that if these questions are answered, a sufficient framework will be in place to solidify future plans:
1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
4. How is that money going to be managed?
Hammering out all the little details will be tricky, de Boer says, but if conference participants can agree on these points, he’ll be happy.
So why do we care as geographers?
This conference highlights environmental, political, and cultural issues… all topics that geographers study. The effect that this conference could have on climate legislation is clear, but just think about the logistics and cultural hurdles of getting representatives from every country in the UN together in one place to come to a solid agreement. A tricky game to play!
Major players like the United States have more leverage, but also greater responsibility as role models and leaders. Growing powerhouses like China and India need to make proactive decisions to limit their emissions output as their economies industrialize, and countries large and small alike must do their part to not only boost conservation efforts for our world’s resources, but also decrease consumption of them.
In my opinion, they need to come up with a catchy way to convince kids that reducing consumption is cool! (An updated version of “We are the Children” with a message about climate change, perhaps?
So how are participants staying green at the conference?
COP15 organizers have thought up lots of hot ways to stay cool in Copenhagen. All participants received pre-paid passes to ride the city’s public transportation to cut down on private chauffeurs. There is a ‘Green Team’ on hand at the conference center to answer questions and field suggestions on how to improve the event. Local and organic food is served in the cafeteria, which is equipped with paper, plastic, glass, and organic waste recycling bins.
And what about those ubiquitous goodie bags? Organizers did some research and found that 80-90% of conference bags and gifts are usually immediately discarded, so instead of giving away the freebies, they used the money saved to give 11 scholarships to graduate students around the world. The nation of Denmark has also done its part; 20% of the country’s energy comes from wind power!
Stay tuned this week for other Copenhagen happenings.
Photo of Copenhagen by Bill Ebbesen