In my transition from boyhood to adolescence, I was told by a computer to pursue a career in Meteorology. Unusually for someone of that age I did exactly what I was told. In the same year, negotiators at COP 3 agreed to sign the Kyoto Protocol. I’m not completely sure but they must have had a similar computer program to tell them what to do.
Fourteen years on and I now find myself at COP 17. While personally I feel like I have made progress in the last fourteen years (thanks to the computer’s guidance) I arrive in Durban a little confused. It appears that the negotiators are still negotiating the Kyoto Protocol… but that was settled fourteen years ago, right?
I must concede that this is my first COP so maybe I don’t fully understand the nuanced language of the UN. Each nation appears to be calling for “urgent” action on climate change – even Canada (see previous post). Maybe the word urgent means something different in climate negotiations because, of course, climate change is a long-term issue, so urgency must be a relative concept. Most nations appear to be citing 2015 as the next realistic opportunity for a global deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions. I can’t help thinking that, fourteen years on from the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, we ought to be a little more, well, urgent.
Having heard about the “circus” of COP 15 in Copenhagen and the hectic nature of previous COP meetings, I had expected the atmosphere to be a little less sedate. Don’t get me wrong, there are many people furiously writing emails! Maybe it is the humidity of Durban, or just the calm before the storm, but there is a relaxed atmosphere which is somewhat underwhelming. At this rate, I struggle to see how COP 17 will deliver anything near what is needed to address the accelerating problem of human induced global climate change. But it is easy to be pessimistic so let’s be optimistic for a moment. Our stand is a hive of activity! A lot of people seem to be genuinely invigorated by the efforts to build capacity within African nations to take the lead in addressing climate change adaptation. Hopefully this enthusiasm will spread to the rest of the conference. Who knows, by the end of COP 17 we may be well on our way to finally agreeing a comprehensive global climate deal…17th time lucky!