a brief summary of COP15

From December 7th to the 18th, leaders and civil society from 193 nations gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark for the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The conference sought to reach a consensus on the international strategy to combat climate change. COP15 followed the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that commits 184 countries to reduced emissions. Unfortunately the Kyoto Protocol was not ratified by the United States, the world’s second largest polluter after China. In addition, the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, meaning that a new agreement must be negotiated in order for the emissions to be reduced to the extent deemed necessary by the International Panel on Climate Change. It was hoped that Copenhagen would start the negotiations for a binding treaty that could be determined within 2010. Copenhagen was to a be a historical event, and thus non-governmental organizations (including hundreds of young people)from around the world gathered to show their support for international cooperation on the most important global issue of our time: climate change. As an Alaskan I understood how vital mitigating climate change is for Alaska, as our state is one of the regions of the world most adversely affected by climate change.

Throughout the two weeks of negotiations, the complexity of climate change and international politics were put to the test. Developing and developed nations discussed the crux of climate justice while they tried to decide who should bear the brunt of reducing global emissions: those countries that have already developed and emitted the most until now? or those countries currently developing, perhaps  unsustainably? With the support of international youth and many others, African nations and small island nations of the Pacific tried to stand up for climate justice by demanding their burden be less as they are responsible for less emissions. As you can imagine, with all of these conflicting interests, things got complicated! On the last day of the conference, Obama arrived and with the leaders of China, India, Brazil, and South Africa negotiated a  three- page accord that did not meet even the most modest expectations for the conference, most importantly failing to set a goal for 2010 by which a legally binding international treaty to seal the deal should be negotiated (more info here). Currently, the UN is waiting to see whether the other 193 countries will sign on to this accord, a process that could take months or even years.

Although the conference was in many ways a failure, there were successes along the way.  There are also reports that the climate accord was a step forward.  In general, I enjoyed the atmosphere of advocacy and activism surrounding Copenhagen. We got know many other youth activists from around the US and the world. (There were 500 other American youth in Copenhagen!) It was also clear that international support for climate change mitigation is going wild and their enthusiasm was contagious.This is why the biggest lesson learned from Copenhagen is that US youth MUST TAKE ACTION! We need to pressure the Senate to pass climate change legislations by this spring! This is a big job, but if the rest of the world can do it, we must rise to the occasion as well: WE ARE NOT DONE YET. I will continue to support multilateral decision making and a fair, binding, and ambitious international climate change agreement. What will YOU do?

ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE!

  • write a letter to Alaskan senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski telling them that you want them to pass strong climate legislation! if you aren’t from Alaska, write to your senators!
  • write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and spread the word about how the US must take domestic legislative action on climate change!
  • keep yourself informed, check out the links to the right and the links in this post!

Need some INSPIRATION? Check out these videos…


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