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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Key COP17 Issues, Summer Reading Responses » Baby Steps?

Baby Steps?

by Claire Tighe ’13

According to the UNFCCC website, the Cancún Agreement, resolved in Mexico at COP16 in 2010, accomplished quite a bit for the continued international efforts at mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, negotiations are by no means complete, and delegates at COP17 will have to continue these “baby” steps in the climate agreements. But are “baby steps” enough to solve climate change?

As the online science resource Climate Action Tracker notes, “Emissions are at a historic high while actions are not.” The Cancún Agreements did manage to form “the largest collective effort the world has ever seen to reduce emisssions,” as well as “the most comprehensive package ever agree by Governments to help developing nations deal with climate change,” and a “timely schedule […] for keeping the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius” (UNFCCC-Cancún).  Does this new agreement represent one “step” closer to the type of international agreement needed to keep life on Earth safe?

Hey Big Pollutors: Stop Being Babies at COP17!

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute argues why Cancún does. Among the successes, she lists the new UNFCCC monitoring of  countries’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets, the increase in transparency in emissions reporting by all countries, and the new establishment of a “Green Climate Fund” which garners financial support for developing countries. Morgan also names a few short-comings of COP16 which lead to the preparation for COP17. Still, scientists are predicting that the majority of countries will not meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. How will the world deal with the changes wrought by their decisions?

In relation to the COP15 at Copenhagen in 2009, the 2010 meeting in Cancún does represent progress. How can COP17 be even more successful at the mitigation of greenhouse gases and the adoption of adaptation strategies for the future? Maybe negotiations should no longer be “global”? Maybe what it takes for the world’s largest emitters to reach an agreement is to lessen the number of negotiating countries? What might new decisions look like if countries such as the United States and China used mutural coercion to agree upon mitigation and adaptation strategies? For more discussion on the reduction of the number of international players, see David Victor’s article here.

The game theory of international relations proves true here upon the reflection COP15, 16, and 17, to show that international climate agreements are indeed based upon the iterations of meetings. The more COP, the better. Like NYTIMES opinion writer Thomas Homer-Dixon argues, world leaders will not make significant changes until more crises appear. However, the world cannot wait for negotiators to make “baby” steps. Hopefully the delegates of COP17 will mature a bit before arrival in Durban.



UNFCCC-Cancún Agreements.

Climate Action Tracker.

Homer-Dixon, Thomas. Disaster at the Top of the World.

Morgan, Jennifer. Reflections on the Cancún Agreements.

Victor, David G.

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