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As 350's spectacularly successful USofA  Do The Math tour passes this week through Chicago, Madison, Columbus, Omaha, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Boulder,  the UN Climate conference - COP18 - began yesterday, 7100-odd miles away in, Doha, Qatar.

Earlier today, the Blue Green Alliance suggested the time is now for the United States to assume a primary role in  the official UN negotiations to effectively address the global climate crisis.

“Climate change and its impacts are taking a toll on our communities and on our economy, from rising food prices to severe weather events that are costing lives and economic distress,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “We can no longer afford inaction, and the United States has a responsibility to lead the world to a solution.” (ReadPDF)

Yet, at yesterday's press conference, a week before US Chief Negotiator Tod Stern is scheduled to arrive,  U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change Jonathon Pershing told reporters the US is already deeply committed to addressing climate change.

"Those who don't follow what the US is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it's enormous," Pershing said.


The twenty year-old UNFCCC negotiating process, whose major accomplishment to date has been the passage of the  Kyoto Protocol (Kyoto's first commitment period expires at the end of this year), is tasked primarily with insuring global temperatures rise less than 2 degrees C.  (A recent report conducted by the World Bank predicted that by 2100, temperatures will increase by 4C.)  

Since the 2009 Copenhagen Accord fell significantly short of reaching legally binding commitments to lower GHG emissions,  the 'agility' of the UNFCCC process is in question,  viewed by some as an antiquated vehicle no longer capable of addressing a vastly altered geopolitical  landscape characterized, for example, by the emergent BRIC (Brazil, Russian, India, China) economies.  

Last year, the Durban Platform failed to ratify the second phase of Kyoto and kicked the can further down the road to a 2015 date.

Still, international negotiators and environmental leaders are not downplaying the importance of the two week Qatar COP.

Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South -APMDD expressed hope that extreme weather events - ranging from Superstorm Sandy, floods in the Philippines,and the significant decline in Middle Eastern crops - will serve as the catalyst which brings to the forefront " the latest science indicates we face a planetary emergency" caused by climate change which has already occurred.

"There is widespread concern that the emission targets for developed countries will in fact represent no new action; that climate finance goals will not be set; and that rules governing accounting of emissions will be weakened," said Meena Raman, negotiations expert at Third World Network.

Yesterday's ECO report suggested "the global shifts in politics and economics we are witnessing are having profound implications on both the need for and dynamics within the UNFCCC negotiations. The gulf to bridge between lofty intentions and credible action is wide. Whilst the political will is still lagging amongst many critical emitters, the weather is turning (metaphorically and meteorologically). Success in 2015 will require fundamental shifts in the real and political economies of many countries. Doha must build on and move forward from Durban to ensure we still have a cup final worth fighting for."

In Dear Todd Stern: an open letter to the US climate team, Adopt A Negotiator team member NikkidHodgson, a newbie on the COP beat, writes that ""the only thing more terrifying than chasing down the United States Special Envoy for Climate Change is what will happen if our climate legacy–Obama’s climate legacy– is more foot-dragging in the Senate and in the UNFCCC."

... We are asking you to fight for us, with us. The sluggish response of the past few years leaves us with the feeling that you are telling us we need to fight for ourselves and I want to ask Obama if that is the answer he would give to his own daughters, that not only does the economy take precedence over future generations, but that the two are somehow mutually exclusive. We are frustrated because we want to believe that you are on our side, that you want what we want, but even as you are telling us you agree with what we want, you lament the fact that your hands are tied. We are doing what we can to loosen those knots.

With the help of numerous grassroots organizations, the youth climate movement in the U.S. has rallied alongside hundreds and thousands of youth from around the world to demand for action, we have organized one of the largest environmental protests that the White House has seen in decades, we are petitioning our universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and we are here, following you, tracking your progress and letting you know by our presence that we are watching because the prospect of inaction has proven too much for the political apathy that often plagues younger generations.




The Qatar COP

Livestreaming:Follow the talks

The most significant aspects on the Qatar COP agenda include:

•     Establishing a "second commitment period" for Kyoto which would extend from 2017 or 2020;
•     "Long-term cooperative action" (LCA) through 2020, such as on finance goals and the comparability of targets between industrialised countries not in Kyoto; and
•    The "Durban Platform" for a new legal agreement to take effect post-2020.

"The conference represents a choice between action now or a decade of delay, locking in potentially irreversible changes to the Earth's natural systems and devastation for vulnerable peoples everywhere," said Asad Rehman, Head of International Climate at Friends of the Earth EWNI.


Feature of the Day

Climate talks: More hot air about hot air?  AJE on Who bears historical responsibility for reducing the effects of climate change?


COP NOTES

   

Delegates from 194 nations are gathering in Doha for the COP18 climate talks
    The conference takes place from November 26 to December 7
    UN climate change talks aim to curb gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020
    Developing nations say agreement on emission cuts relies on rich states
    Developing nations say rich states must make bigger cuts in emissions
    China is the world's biggest emitter of gases that trap the sun's heat
    The US, India and Russia are the biggest greenhouse gas emitters after China
    According to a UN report: CO2 levels in the atmosphere have risen by 20 per cent since 2000
    Scientists say CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere causing the Earth to warm
    According to a UN report: there is an at least 66 per cent chance that changes in weather are man-made


Resources

UNFCCC Official Site- Watch Live & webcasts
• tcktcktck
• Stakeholder Forum
• IPS News from Doha Climate Talks
• Follow the Talks on your iPhone
• Participate in the Talks with DecisionMakr
UNEP: The Emissions Gap Report 2012 (download report)

 

Two fundamental questions in the global climate negotiations include:

    Will the pledges made by countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions be sufficient to achieve the 2.0 degree or 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limits by year 2020 or will there be a gap between the level of ambition that is needed and what is expected as a result of the pledges?
    If a gap exists, in what ways can it bridged?


Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 8:30 AM PT: Poland has offered to host #COP19

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