The stakes for decisive climate policy are higher than ever as world leaders gather in Warsaw this week for the U.N. Climate Summit COP-19. The 19th annual meeting kicked off to a dire start, right after Super Typhoon Haiyan--one of the most powerful storms ever--slammed into the Philippines late last week, leaving up to 10,000 people dead; and a recent report that shattered hopes for a two degrees Celsius global warming limit. Despite their lofty goals, these annual climate change conferences have been repeatedly criticized for their slow and ineffectual efforts at stopping carbon emissions from skyrocketing out of control. After the "colossal failure" of last year's COP-18 summit, can we expect—or afford—this year's climate summit to be any different? Read on to learn what issues you should watch for during COP-19.
The “Last Chance” 2015 International Climate Agreement
Two years ago at Durban, South Africa, countries at COP-17 ended climate talks with a promise to create a new global pact to fight greenhouse gases by 2015. Though the agreement helped extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that was set to expire in 2012, the summit incurred criticism for essentially postponing talks on pressing climate issues. As a result, COP-19 must lay out a framework with key milestones achievements in order to put together the international agreement by 2015. The pact is viewed as the UN Climate Summit’s “last chance” to avoid the consequences of dangerous climate change.
Climate Finance Road Map
Climate finance refers to the flow of funds from various sectors to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. In 2011, COP-17 proposed the Green Climate Fund, a program that directs funds from the developed to the developing countries to help limit or reduce greenhouse gases. COP-19 is expected to offer initial guidance to this concept by creating a solid policy and finance framework with transparency tools in order to implement the ambitious goal of mobilizing USD $100 Billion in climate finance annually by 2020.
In a bizarre move, Poland double-booked COP19 to run alongside the World Coal Summit. Activists have long criticized the UNFCCC process for pandering to corporate lobbies, thus shielding dirty energy industries from stronger regulation. Many of the corporate partners selected for this year’s climate conference are major fossil corporations dealing in coal and oil.
Rather than separating the developing and developed countries into two camps as established in the Kyoto Protocol, the 2015 agreement aims to spread climate change responsibility equitably across all countries. Thus, COP19 will explore mechanisms to determine how countries will shoulder their fair share in anthropogenic climate change.
Loss and Damage
Last year in Doha, island nations and least developed countries scored a major victory when leaders agreed to consider a compensation system for the loss and damage caused by climate change to the world’s most vulnerable communities. COP-19 will discuss the actual mechanics and content for this international mechanism.
The Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) was set up in 2010 to help reduce the risks and costs of transferring climate change mitigation technology to developing countries. To become fully operational by the end of 2013, COP19 will need to finalize CTCN procedures, coordinate responsibilities between CTCN and Technology Executive Committee, and clarify the connection between technology transfers and the Green Climate Fund.
Transparency and Accountability Rules
COP-19 will continue to create rules to give countries some degree of comparability as they reduce carbon emissions. The ongoing process will determine methods of measurement, reporting and verification systems.