Today marks the beginning of the COP19 climate talks, this year hosted in Warsaw, Poland. Expectations for ambitious progress in the coming two weeks are dampened by economic concerns, despite expression of increasing urgency from the scientific community for effective action. The the next big target for international negotiations is 2015, when the deadline for a legally-binding international climate treaty comes due for the COP21 talks in Paris, a goal set at last year's COP18 meeting in Doha, Qatar. The terms negotiated in Paris would not begin implementation until 2020, by which time many see the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius as likely out of reach.
Given the disappointing results thus far in the United Nations climate negotiating process, especially at COP15 in Copenhagen, a more flexible approach has been advocated by climate leaders for reaching an agreement. Nonetheless, many of the same obstacles remain between industrialized and developing nations that have hobbled negotiations thus far. Given the current economic environment and the reality of the negotiating process to date, hopes are fading in some quarters that a strong deal will emerge 2015, flexible or not.
We'll keep an eye on the progress of negotiations at COP19 over the coming two weeks. Stay tuned.
Untied Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) press release:
COP19 Opens in Warsaw
The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw began today with calls for governments to harness the strong groundswell of action on climate change across all levels of government, business and society and make real progress here towards a successful, global climate change agreement in 2015.
The newly elected President of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19/CMP9), H. E. Mr. Marcin Korolec, Poland's Environment Minister, said in his opening address that climate change is a global problem that must be turned
further into a global opportunity. "It's a problem if we can't coordinate our actions. It becomes opportunity where we can act together. One country or even a group cannot make a difference. But acting together, united as we are here, we can do it," he said.
In her opening speech at the Warsaw National Stadium, the venue of COP 19, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, called on delegates to "win the Warsaw opportunity" in order to safeguard present and future generations.
"We must stay focused, exert maximum effort for the full time and produce a positive result, because what happens in this stadium is not a game. There are not two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves."
Ms. Figueres pointed to the sobering realities of climate change and the rise in extreme events that climate science has long predicted, including the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that just hit the Philippines, one of the most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall.
Ms. Figueres highlighted the key areas in which COP 19 can make progress:
"We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development. We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change. We must deliver an effective path to pre-2020 ambition, and develop further clarity for elements of the new agreement that will shape the post-2020 global climate, economic and development agendas".
In addition, the meeting in Warsaw will focus on decisions that will make fully operational the new institutional support under the UNFCCC for developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology. These are the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee, all agreed in Cancun in 2010.
Ms. Figueres stressed the fact that the meeting in Warsaw is taking place against the background of growing awareness that climate change is real and accelerating, and the growing willingness of people, businesses and governments to take climate action, at all levels of society and policy.
"There is a groundswell of climate action. Not only for environmental reasons, but also for security, energy, economic and governance reasons. Political will and public support favour action now. A new universal climate agreement is within our reach. Agencies, development banks, investors and subnational governments are on board. The science from the IPCC is clear. Parties can lead the momentum for change and move together towards success in 2015."
In order to showcase the growing climate leadership and contributions to the climate challenge from all sides, a Business Forum organized by the UN and the Polish host government will take place next week alongside the meeting. Cities and regions will gather for the first ever "Cities Day" that highlights their actions. And a Gender Day will showcase women's role in meeting the climate challenge.
Also next week, the UNFCCC secretariat will showcase Momentum for Change lighthouse activities, climate action that demonstrates positive results for innovative finance, women and the urban poor. In addition, the initiative will launch a new area that focuses on contributions by the information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaptive capacity to respond.
The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (11 to 22 November) is currently being attended by government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media.
More than 100 Heads of State and Government and Ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level segment of the meeting, which begins on 19 November and ends with a decision-making plenary on 22 November.