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The road to Copenhagen: the most important meeting in history?

unfccc logoFrom 7 - 18 December this year, parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will descend on Copenhagen to wrangle over the details of a new global climate deal — a successor to the Kyoto Protocol (which expires at the end of 2012).

As such, the meeting in Copenhagen, CoP 15, presents an historic opportunity to strengthen the international response to global climate change and agree a framework that ensures that all major economies contribute equitably to averting catastrophic climate change. 

With Copenhagen less than three months away, governments are engaged in near-continuous talks in hopes of achieving at least an interim deal on a post-2012 international framework.  However, little progress was seen in the latest round of UN talks held 10-14 August in Bonn.

The UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, frustrated at the slow pace of these crucial climate change negotiations, hosted an additional summit on 22nd September in New York to get world leaders moving towards a deal that could stop catastrophic global warming. The UN Secretary General acknowledged he was looking to the summit of nearly 100 world leaders to break through the distrust between rich and poor countries. "We are deeply concerned that the negotiation is not making much headway. It is absolutely and crucially important for the leaders to demonstrate their political will, leadership, and to give clear political guidelines to the negotiators. They should be responsible for the future of this entire humanity," said Ban.

Further UNFCCC talks leading up to Copenhagen are set for 28 September - 9 October in Bangkok, and  2-6 November in Barcelona.

Follow the links below to find out more about the Copenhagen negotiations, some of the campaigns that are running and to download tools for use in your garden:

The UN Climate Change Campaign is called Seal the Deal, sign up and pledge your support for strong climate action in Copenhagen.

Here's the IUCN take on a post-2010 climate agreement, calling for the inclusion of nature-based solutions to climate change, and  including position papers for each of the climate summits.

And here's what The Pew Centre, established in 1998 and now a leading voice for climate change action, has to say about the importance of Copenhagen

The journal Nature is covering the science and politics of climate change in the lead up to Copenhagen.  An article recently published reminds us that Arctic sea ice levels are the third lowest on record, and this new study looks at Earth-system processes and associated thresholds which generate unacceptable environmental changes if crossed.

To remind us why this matters so much, Asian countries like Bangladesh are already suffering from saltwater intrusion as seas rise; Australia, the Mediterranean and the American southwest are enduring epic drought; forests across western North America are succumbing to pests multiplying in the growing heat. And all of this is with temperature increases of not even 1 degree. A 2007 IPCC report showed that "the wildfire season in the western US has increased by 78 days" and the "burn duration" of large fires has quadrupled, from 7.5 to 37.1 days, in the past three decades "in response to a spring-summer warming of 0.87C."  In fact, since the late 1990s, greenhouse gas emissions have increased at close to the most extreme IPCC scenarios, meaning that rates of warming will be faster than most people expect.

The latest research to come out of the Met Office Hadley Centre, and presented at the Oxford University International Climate Conference, challenges the assumption that severe warming will be a threat only for future generations, and warns that a catastrophic 4C rise in temperature could happen by 2060 without strong action on emissions. The Met Office scientists used new versions of the computer models used to set the IPCC predictions, updated to include carbon feedbacks and tipping points, which occur when warmer temperatures release more carbon, such as from soils. When they ran the models for the most extreme IPCC scenario, they found that a 4C rise could come by 2060 or 2070, depending on the feedbacks. Dr Richard Betts,  Head of Climate Impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre in the UK, said: "It's important to stress it's not a doomsday scenario, we do have time to stop it happening if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon." Soaring emissions must peak and start to fall sharply within the next decade to head off a 2C rise, he said. To avoid the 4C scenario, that peak must come by the 2030s.

Specifically for CoP 15, Google, in collaboration with the Danish government and others, has launched a series of Google Earth layers and tours to allow you to explore the potential impacts of climate change on our planet. Working with data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Google Earth shows the range of expected temperature and precipitation changes under different global emissions scenarios.

And YouTube have a dedicated Cop 15 channel urging you to submit your views on climate change. What needs to be done? How do the issues affect you? Do you agree there needs to be action?  Send them your videos with your views, opinions and questions. The best contributions will be aired during the COP15 CNN/YouTube TV debate on 15th December 2009.

In a recent letter published in The Lancet, leaders of 18 colleges of medicine and other medical disciplines across the world emphasised the importance of decisive climate change action, noting that: "There is a real danger that politicians will be indecisive, especially in such turbulent economic times as these.  Should their response be weak, the results for international health could be catastrophic."

350.org, which BGCI is a partner to, is a campaign aimed at enouraging our leaders to be accountable to the latest climate science: that Earth systems are responding faster than anticipate and reality is running way ahead of models - "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." James Hansen, NASA scientist.  24th October 2009 is the International Day of Climate Action, why not get involved?

Another great website counting down to this most important meeting is Tck Tck Tck, rounding up climate change stories from around the world, BGCI is a partner to this initiative.

Here is the UK-based 10:10 campaign, which calls for citizens, businesses and goverments to pledge to cut their emissions by 10% in 2010 to encourage the political will necessary to make the deep emissions cuts that science demands. For those not in the UK - look here and get the concept running where you are. 

Take a look at this groundbreaking new film, The Age of Stupid.  The film stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The Road to Copenhagen 2009 is an interactive initiative aimed at giving businesses, parliamentarians, NGOs and individuals a voice.

"It hasn’t quite entered the human consciousness, that if planet Earth suffers we suffer and that we have nowhere else to go. We are part of an integrated earth and when we reduce the natural world to an exploitable resource this turns inwards on us. How else does one explain the consequences of climate change? Prosperity it seems is based on creating discontent as consumers are seduced to vie with each other in pursuit of technopia. We have political, financial and industrial systems, in place that will ensure that this continues without interruption. If there is a lesson we can learn from the financial crisis it is that market forces are a fiction because money itself is a fiction. It can be created by the stroke of a pen or push of a button..."  Fazlun Khalid, founder of the NGO, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, speaking in New York at the UN Climate Change Summit on 22nd September.

What next?

 
climate change cover
 
voice your choice poster
 
use your voice

Read our Plants and climate change: which future? report.

Free to download.

Also available in Korean.

Download our climate change teaching activities and educate about

the importance of plants.

Coming soon in Mandarin and Spanish. 

Join one of the campaigns listed above and push for strong climate change targets in Copenhagen.

It is imperative for the world to reach an ambitious climate deal at Copenhagen that keeps the global temperature increase below two degrees. 



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