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