Wednesday, November 28, 2012

COP18 - Nations to make the next attempt in Doha

During the next two weeks (26 Nov. - 7 Dec.), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have invited all 193 member countries to the sunny city of Doha in Qatar, which is the country in the world with the highest usage of fossil fuel per capita. The 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) will be focusing on tackling the climate challenge and discuss international rules for engagement among the member states in the process of renewing the Kyoto Protocol.

Recently, a series of reports from esteemed organisations including the World Bank, shows that the already harsh prediction of a 2 degree rise in temperature in 2100 with business as usual is far to positive. Instead they claim that an increase of 4 degrees is more likely to be the truth. These research results are followed by the superstorm Sandy, deadly flooding in the UK, the tsunami in Japan and the smallest icecap we have ever recorded. So there are clearly evidences that our climate change and the problems it entails are not just a political agenda. It is an inter-national, inter-political and inter-sectoral problem that is addressed in Doha for the next 2 weeks.

A simplified introduction

At the core of the negotiation is the questions of who is to blame for our current situation and the rather negative foresights for our climate and finally who are to pay for it? On the one hand, developing countries stand on their right of developing their countries without letting the climate be an unpleasant obstacle on the way to prosperity. On the other hand, the developed countries cannot accept the fact that developing countries will be the obstacle in breaking the negative impacts humans have had on the global climate since the birth of the industrial revolution. The short video produced by The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway below captures the negotiations and the gridlock situation very well.

However, the discussion above should already be considered outdated because it is grounded in one archaic equation:
Increasing the level of emission is proportional with prosperity and the development of nations.
Evidences for this equation are many and can be found in both developed and developing countries and follow a traditional model of the industrialisation. However, that is also where the validity of this equation ends.

Instead of looking at our industrial past, it is important to focus on our current time and trends in job creation and innovative business solutions and the ideas and decisions that make the wheels go round in 2012. It is here interesting to see that many of the useful solutions towards a greener trajectory, that undermine the above equation, originates from the city level.

What is the role of a city network at a high level meeting among world leaders?

UBC might not represent a direct negotiating part in the climate negotiations, but we represent one of the best proof of evidence needed in order to convince big nations such as, the US and China about a greener trajectory. The Baltic Sea Region provide a vast variety of good examples of green growth and the opportunities in developed cities and emerging economies and countries with different economic, cultural and social background. 

In order to renew the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period runs out on 31 December this year, the Baltic Sea Region represent a positive story in terms combining growth with a green trajectory. The efforts on the international level are highly appreciated and the city level is a point of departure to search for practical solutions where climate policies are utilized into tangible projects, which benefits both the local urban dwellers as well as the global climate change.

It is evident that many cities have been forced to divert into a more sustainable planning trajectory at another pace than national policies. However, it will be a major supporting push in the right direction for cities if COP18 succeed in updating the Kyoto Protocol. From the Commission on Environment, we have high hopes for COP and support the activities to join forces on all administrative levels, from local to global, in order to mitigate the climate change.

Text by: Jeppe Mikel Jensen, UBC Environmental Commission
Video: The Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Norway

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