Reflections: disappointment with the outcome

December 9, 2013

With COP 19 having wrapped just over a week ago, its time we take a step back and ask ourselves where we are now…

The goal of this COP was not to develop any kind of legally binding agreement, but to develop some draft text, framework, and common understanding in preparation for COP 21, in Paris.  The goal of that COP, which will take place in 2015, is a legally binding agreement to take effect in 2020.  Although the goal of this COP was sort of squishy and ill defined, we can take a look at the delegate’s success in hammering out some of the nuts and bolts that will form the basis of the 2015 agreement.  Here are some highlights of the COP:

·      Adaptation discussions were more active at COP19 than they have been in the past, with countries accepting that even the most drastic mitigation steps, if taken, would not reduce enough greenhouse gases to meet stated warming targets.

·      Loss and damage became critical in the wake of the typhoon that imposed significant damage on the Philippines just days before the opening of the COP.  The discussion resulted in draft text for an international mechanism for loss and damage under CAN’s adaptation pillar.  This remains controversial, particularly with coalitions of developing countries and the mechanism will be revisited at COP20.

·      For the first time, conference days were themed.  Cities day brought a lot of good discussion surrounding the efforts that are being made to curb climate change on a local level.  Arguably more successful than anything that is being done on an international level.

·      Perhaps the biggest success of the conference was the approval of a REDD+ framework including formal framework, safeguards, and funding to cut deforestation in half by 2020. 

·      COP19 marked the opening of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN), a mechanism for technology transfer to help less developed nations mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Although some key steps were taken, particularly with regard to loss and damage and REDD+, I can’t help but feel disappointed with the outcome (or lack thereof) of COP19, particularly surrounding mitigation and adaptation, and I’m not the only one…this marked the first COP to witness a walk out of non-governmental organizations, who left the negotiations on Wednesday, November 20 citing frustration over the slow speed of negotiations and lack of ambition.  After observing the COP for two weeks, I can’t help but agree.  There was no discernable sense of urgency, arguably necessary to solve such a large and pressing problem, and there was little to no progress towards finding a middle ground where developed and developing countries can agree on climate change responsibilities…maybe the most difficult and important aspect of a global agreement.  Hopefully progress will be made at UN meetings throughout the next year, and negotiators will come to Lima more prepared, willing, and driven to negotiate otherwise Paris in 2015 may be the next disappointment in what is becoming an increasingly long line of disappointments. 

--Corey Tucker