Monday, December 7, 2009

Climate change and COP15

Photo by Daphne Richet-Cooper

Not sure I can say I had the "pleasure" of attending a climate-change press conference today -- the thing was a bit too Chinese (you'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever attended a press conference here) -- but the event held by 51Sim was meaningful and timely. I ended up reporting on it for the Beijinger's blog. Excerpt below (and more on this topic in the coming week).

In less than two hours – 1 p.m. Copenhagen time, 8 p.m. local – a special opening ceremony will officially launch the most important environmental conference since the 1997 convention that established the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012. Over the next week and a half, COP15, short for the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference, will bring together officials from 193 countries, including at least 65 heads of state, in talks to reach an agreement to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.

Almost everyone agrees that our current carbon dioxide output is unsustainable, but how much we should reduce emissions is a divisive issue. The COP15 discussions will likely be contentious and embroiled with politics. And constructive? That’s to be determined.

All eyes will be on the U.S. and China, the world’s largest carbon emitters, neither of which signed the Kyoto Protocol. It was only on November 25 that President Obama committed to COP15 (he’s recently changed his travel plans to have a bigger presence during the conference), with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao following suit a day later. Both countries have made and will reiterate their carbon-cutting commitments, but the success or failure of COP15 largely rests on the extent to which these two countries follow through.

UPDATE: If you haven't seen The Green Leap Forward yet, please consider this your introduction: here is the beginning of its coverage of COP15.

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