Conserving our planet's botanical resources and ecosystems

Follow CanopyMeg as she attends COP15

From Dr. Margaret Lowman (aka CanopyMeg):

In less than a week, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention opens in Copenhagen, Denmark. Abbreviated as UNFCCC or COP15 (which stands for Council of Parties, now in its 15th year), these meetings are highly anticipated by governments, industry, scientists, and citizens worldwide. I am humbled and honored to have a Press Pass from the New York Times to attend these meetings, and report back to their regional Florida paper, the Sarasota Herald Tribune. With Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, I hope to share the announcements, findings, side events, and diverse groups represented in Copenhagen. From the Girl Scouts to Environmental Defense, from Harvard University to the government of Papua New Guinea, voices around the world will speak out about climate change, in hopes of influencing future policies. I will also be reporting scientific information directly to our Florida cabinet, in my role as climate change adviser to our state CFO, Alex Sink.

My first assignment for COP15 was attendance at a Press Briefing in Bonn, Germany on November 25 …. via internet! At this introductory session, it was made clear that there is no Plan B for failure at Copenhagen, only Plan A (and A stands for Action). It is also clear from the scientific record that unseasonable climatic conditions are already stressing many developing countries and resulting in tragic loss of human life. Droughts in Africa, storm surges flooding Pacific Islands, and monsoons accompanied by flood damage along the coasts of Asia are threatening millions of citizens. Is climate change a consequence of human activities? The scientific consensus is a strong YES. But regardless of anyone’s opinion about the answer to that question, all global leaders agree on three issues:

  1. More people are currently at risk (as compared to the past) from climatic extremes;
  2. Our already- declining, finite supplies of some natural resources (e.g. forests, coral reefs, mangroves, etc.) are in danger of disappearing, if international agreements are not reached; and
  3. The meetings in Copenhagen require strong initiatives, goals, and cooperation.

The outcome of these meetings needs to prioritize safe, low-emissions growth for all developing countries; and new, clean-energy technologies for developed countries. Poor nations are currently at risk due a history of high levels of consumption and carbon dioxide emissions from developed countries. For most international leaders, this poses an ethical dilemma that requires immediate attention. In fact, most leaders agree that it is overdue for urgent action to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and moderate extreme climatic events.

What will define success for COP15? Industrialized countries need to declare strict targets by pledging immediate emissions cuts by 2020, thereby averting more serious climatic extremes. (Russia recently pledged to reduce its emissions by 22-25% over 1990 levels which is an exciting, recent announcement.) Second, developing countries need to define their goals more clearly. For example, Brazil has pledged to reduce emissions by 36-39% from current levels, and South Korea by 30%. These announcements are truly exemplary. Third, clarity on the finance to support developing countries is critical to the UNFCCC agenda; wealthy countries need to fund the reduction of carbon emissions and/or pay credits for their history of excessive emissions. And fourth, international agreement on how such funds will be deployed and how emissions will be monitored is a final priority for the agenda. All of these actions require international cooperation. Scientists and policy-makers agree that the destruction of forests, the melting of glaciers, and the expansion of infectious diseases are suicidal for humankind. So, all countries anticipate a spirit of cooperation and creativity to succeed in Copenhagen.

If there is no success at COP15, then the future is certainly jeopardized for our children. The stakes are high. Creating international standards to insure clean air, water, and sustainable use of resources for the next generation is critical, with our global population predicted to reach 8 billion over the next two decades.

So, watch for developments about the Copenhagen meetings on the Herald-Tribune Blog, CanopyMeg Blog, Twitter (canopymeg), Facebook (Meg Lowman). I will be doing my utmost to keep our community informed about COP15.