How can the UN avoid a repeat of the disastrous Copenhagen summit in Mexico?
In the wake of the unsuccessful climate change conference held in Copenhagen last year, another summit is to be held in Cancun, Mexico this December. Intent on not ‘getting it wrong’ a second time, a series of meetings are to take place in the run up to Cancun, to discuss, deliberate and streamline negotiations.
“Governments have a responsibility this year to take the next essential step in the battle against climate change.” These albeit ‘underestimated’ words were uttered by Christiana Figueres, the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , at this month’s climate change conference in Bonn. The meeting, which was designed to discuss and prepare the outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, was made up of representatives from 178 governments.
Demonstrators dumped broken glass outside the convention building, holding placards telling the world leaders to “pick up the pieces” from Copenhagen, the last major climate change summit, which failed to produce a binding climate change resolution. Many delegates attending the three-day conference reiterated the protesters quips by making blasts towards the failure of Copenhagen. Referring to this disappointment, Claudia Salerno, a delegate from Venezuela said:
“The total failure of the meeting in Copenhagen.. was simply because the principles of the United Nations were not respected, nor were international rules.”
But what is the solution to ‘picking up the pieces’ Copenhagen left behind? Did the Bonn conference succeed in helping streamlining the decision-making process which is so imperative if our planet is to survive its otherwise imminent demise? How can the UN avoid a repeat of the Copenhagen summit in Mexico?
Fernando Tudelo, a representative from Mexico, blames the process of negotiations for the failure in Copenhagen, stating, “We need to improve our working methods.” There is a general accord that negotiations and decisions need to be streamlined so that a climate change resolution can be met. Several countries have shown support for streamlining the decision-making process, which requires no less than 194 parties to approve an agreement. One suggestion proposed is to create “contact group” from 36 countries that would converse on issues before presenting them to a plenary session for approval. Representatives are also considering whether to create a draft negotiating text in the forthcoming weeks.
As she addressed the meeting, Christiana Figueres underlined the rapidly rising scale and urgency of what still has to be done in the negotiations:
“Governments alone cannot solve climate change, but only governments, working together, can help the world pilot the cause effectively”.
Reading reports about the Bonn conference, which as far as I can gather, mainly consisted of leaders carping Copenhagen and making half-hearted and uncommitted pledges to ‘streamline’ negotiations and ‘improve working methods’, it is hard not to surmise that little was achieved in Bonn. In light of this indecision and lack of resolution, the UN and world leaders are arguably heading towards a second disastrous climate change summit. Instead of talking about what they are planning to do, why don’t they just do it?
Perhaps one of the biggest ironies regarding the Copenhagen summit last December was the fact that the 140 private airplanes and 1,200 limousines the world leaders needed to attend the 11-day conference, pumped out 41,000 tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the amount produced over the same period by a city with a population of almost 150,000. It was this blatant incongruity that angered people the most and allowed them to dismiss the whole thing as a ridiculous circus, more than the fact that all Copenhagen managed to produce was a handful of countries setting a general goal of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius and allocating billions of dollars to help developing countries limit harmful gases.
Given the paradox that the travelling to huge climate change summits inevitably causes within the realms of creating more carbon dioxide to be pumped into the ozone layer and intensify global warming, it seems ludicrous that the UN seems so intent on dragging delegates from all over the world to a series of successive meetings before the ‘big one’ in Mexico.
Of course discussions need to take place and decisions made, but why can this not happen virtually? Especially when little seems to be resolved at the meetings, like the one in Bonn, anyway? Like when any major resolution is accomplished, action needs to replace oratory, and I believe this is where the UN and governments are failing in the fight against global warming.
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