UN COP17: An Overview

by Antonio Pasolini on November 29, 2011

Photo: Greenpeace

Durban in South Africa is the stage for the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nationals Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP). The purpose of the meeting is to create a roadmap for governments and businesses across the world to produce a global policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While press releases abound with calls to action, in practice very little seems to happen.

There is consensus amongst the sustainability community that there’s a disparity between words and action. This is evidenced by the fact that 2010 emissions were the highest in history because the growth in energy use during the last decade came mainly from coal. Therefore, a switch to alternative energy on a grand scale is a necessity, not a luxury.

One of the central problems with COP meetings is the difficulty that countries find in agreeing on a legally binding treaty that is fair to everyone. Developing countries want developed countries, whose historical contribution to climate change is much more significant, to pay more for emissions mitigation programs. Japan and the United States tend to be quite inflexible when it comes to accept legally binding targets without similar commitments from emerging economies such as India and China, who have become massive emitters.

The Kyoto Protocol, which expires next year, and the creation of a climate fund to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, are the centerpieces of the discussions at COP17, which will last another two weeks. Delegates at the event will be doing a lot of talking. Let’s hope their talks will become actionable goals for a sustainable future.

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OneClimate’s easy-to-follow video about COP17:

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