Apparently, change is hard. Changing the global economy from fossil-fueled to clean energy driven while making sure people around the world can adapt to the effects of climate change – that’s no exception. I just landed in Bangkok Thailand for the next round of negotiations between countries & work among countries using the UNFCCC to accomplish those lofty goals. After years of meetings like this (it’s my third), I’m proud to report that we’re making progress. Slow, tedious, but real progress.
Normally, I’m the behind the scenes guy running the Adopt a Negotiator project; supporting a team of young people who publicly track their country’s role in the global effort to address climate change. This time, we have a small team of ‘negotiator trackers’ from the region – China, India, & Indonesia – and I’m joining them in the trenches. We’ll work with young people here in Bangkok and a few watching the talks from their home country’s abroad; publicly tracking our governments as they try to forge climate change solutions that are shaping our future for better or worse.
This meeting is the first time countries will gather in this fora since the Cancun talks last November. We closed the year with near unanimous support for a set of actionable decisions called the Cancun Agreement. In it, countries set out an ambitious work plan for 2011, which is what this week in Bangkok is all about. Here’s what I think are some of the most take-aways from where we left off:
The Cancun Agreements restored confidence in the UNFCCC process.
After the meetings in Copenhagen fell far short of hopes and expectations, people wondered if the UN system could ever deliver the massive global action needed to address climate change. The outcomes of Cancun show that while the UNFCCC is only one platform for action – it will play a vital role going forward.
The launch of new mechanisms & processes are important steps forward – but there’s lots to do.
The Cancun Agreement gave us a mechanism to help transfer technologies to speed mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries; an adaptation framework to help understand, share and step up global efforts to adapt to the changes underway; a new climate fund to help pay for our efforts; and processes to measure and verify what actions countries are taken, so we know we’re getting the most bang for our buck and know whether our goals are being met. These new mechanisms and processes have HUGE potential, but we need to flesh them out and build upon what’s been agreed over the next 8 months so go from a few lines of text on a page to real operating pieces of the solutions to climate change.
The Future of the Kyoto Protocol is in doubt.
Right now, the only operating legally-binding global deal we have is the Kyoto Protocol; and Kyoto’s current commitments are set to expire in 2012. In Cancun, we agreed to continue negotiating toward the goal of agreeing a second Kyoto commitment period. Japan, Russia and Canada led on blocking an agreement last year. If countries don’t agree to a second commitment period by the end of this year, many important Kyoto mechanisms that countries are premising future climate action on will be lost. We’re facing a dangerous gap before another global agreement can come into force, and massive lost opportunity for taking coordinated action.
Ambition is too low, but the inadequacy is acknowledged.
Countries’ greenhouse gas emission reduction pledges were formally anchored in the UNFCCC at the Cancun talks, and countries agreed to a review process that will track the adequacy of global mitigation efforts. That lets us begin formal and frank discussions about what we’ll need to address the massive gap between reductions countries have pledged and reductions scientists say are to stay below 2 degrees average global temperature rise (if not 1.5, which is what many argue is the most we can bare without catastrophic effects).
There’s a lot more, but we’ll dig in over the course of this week as negotiations resume. In the mean time, Juliana Russar, our Brazilian Tracker following the talks from Sao Paulo has more details on what to expect this week. The Adopt a Negotiator team in Bangkok is meeting with our partners in the Global Campaign for Climate Action and the Climate Action Network to get a better sense of what groups are planning and where things stand. We’ll have some updates from what’s happening on the ground this evening.
It’s going to be an exciting week. Stay tuned!
About the authorJoshua Wiese
Joshua Wiese is Adopt a Negotiator’s Project Director. He is based in San Francisco, where he spends most of his time thinking about how to use technology to make the world a better place.