Posted by: David McKay | December 13, 2011

The COP17 in Durban, South Africa


It’s a mouthful: The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP7) to the Kyoto Protocol.

The conference just ended a few days ago.

I watched the end of the conference Saturday night.  It seemed that the room full of dignitaries was not really satisfied with the end result.  Ecuador and Nicaragua were definitely not happy.

The online news source, EurActiv – an EU news and policy debate site, had this to say about the way the conference ended:

Most importantly, the teetering but symbolically vital Kyoto Protocol was given a second wind with the EU bringing its voluntary pledges of the Copenhagen Summit under its auspices.

But without comparable pledges from big emitters like the US and China, for the next few years the Protocol will only cover about 15% of the world’s emissions.

Canada has pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.  Al-Jazeera says this of Canada: “The decision to quit will not help the international reputation of the North American country, a major energy producer which critics say is becoming a climate renegade.

OXFAM International has this to say:

Negotiators at the UN climate talks have narrowly avoided a collapse, agreeing to the bare minimum deal possible. The plan gets the Green Climate Fund up and running without any sources of funding, preserves a narrow pathway to avoid 4 degrees of warming and gets a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol without key members.

The failure to seal an ambitious deal will have painful consequences for poor people around the world. A four degree temperature rise could be one of utter devastation for poor farmers who will face increasing hunger and poverty.

If action is not taken, farmers in parts of Africa could face a drop in crop yields of more than fifty percent within this generation or that of their children.  Food prices could more than double within the next two decades, up to half of which caused by climate change. This makes delivering real concrete assistance to ensure the most vulnerable people can protect themselves from a changing climate even more vital.

You can read the whole press release here: Durban Platform leaves world sleepwalking towards four degrees warming

How do you change the world?  Should we all just say, to hell with it?  The high school kids I was with today don’t seem to care.  We watched, An Inconvenient Truth.  How do I get young people to change their habits before it is too late?  In a pre-calculus class earlier in the day, all I had to do was sit there while the kids did their work.  Towards the end of class, I started talking about my blog, and Twitter, and that led to plastics, and one of the girls had a to go cup of coffee with a plastic lid.  I told her,

Stop living a throw-away life-style — we cannot afford it.  We are drowning in plastic.

The next time I see her, I will ask her about plastic lids and whether or not she has made a change…

If 194 countries can at least walk away from the table with an agreement, even if that agreement is barely symbolic, I think I can talk just one teenage girl into getting a reusable coffee mug.  To take this analogy one step further — if that girl cannot afford a reusable coffee mug, I can buy her one; shouldn’t the developed countries — most notably the ones who cannot join the rest of the world in agreement — the USA, China, Canada, etc… — help out those that need help?  Read about Norway and what they are doing to help preserve the world’s forests here: REDD+ biggest success in climate change talks.

Whether just one person, or the representative of a nation of people, we have a responsibility.

Responsibility is not convenient — it’s necessary.

Rethink.  Refuse.  Reduce.  Reuse.  Reimagine.




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