Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tempered Optimism as the COP20 Process Begins

Despite a number of outstanding issues, there is a tinge of optimism at this years climate talks. More than 190 countries and 12,000 delegates have come together for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima, Peru. This is also the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 10). Both COP20 and CMP 10 commenced on December 1 and will run until December 12, 2014.

While critics point to the litany of failures that have preceded this years climate conference, the 2014 meeting is different than all that have gone before it. We have a firm scientific grasp of the fact that we are rapidly running out of time to reign in climate change. Failure at this years climate summit will jeopardize prospects to stave off irreversible climate tipping points.

The COP 20 agenda will address the following key points:

Long term targets for adaptation and mitigation
Support for developing countries and the Green Climate Fund
Deforestation and REDD+
Information sharing before COP 21
Process of compliance and consequences of non-compliance

At COP 21 in Paris next year participants are expected to finalize a global climate agreement that will go into force in 2020.

While many obstacles still must be ironed out, there has been some high level optimism leading up to the start of the talks. Todd Stern, the top US climate negotiator indicated that he was optimistic about the outcome in the wake of the historic climate agreement between the US and China.

"I think it will give momentum to the negotiations," said U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern in remarks at the Center for American Progress Monday. "I think it will spur countries to come forward with their own targets."

However, Republicans in Congress have made their resistance to both the US/China deal and the whole COP process well known.

There really is not alternative to optimism, because we will certainly not make progress if these talks are governed by pessimism and hopeless.

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