Louis Blumberg is a COP 15 delegate and Director of Climate and Forest Policy for the Nature
Conservancy in California.
Update from Hopenhagen
By Louis Blumberg
The sense of possibility pervaded the halls Monday, infusing energy and optimism into the delegates at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. As in prior years, the sheer magnitude of the event was inspiring. More than 10,000 participants attended today, thousands of whom (including this participant) waited patiently in line for hours to get inside.
In one room, representatives from 192 nations sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the discussions, and each country was given an equal voice. Two seats were allocated to Gabon and two for the U.S., two for China and two for Monaco, and so on.
At home in San Francisco, much of my work is focused on addressing climate change in California, and we have made great progress as a state. Now, seeing the whole world gathered in one room (figuratively speaking), it is a powerful reminder that the work we are doing in California can be applied anywhere, whether in Australia, Peru or China. We are all in this together and can learn so much from one another.
This is the 15th meeting for the “Conference of Parties” (hence “COP 15”), a follow-up to the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which resulted in the first global climate agreement ratified by 192 nations, including the U.S. Each year preceding that conference, global delegations have met to discuss how to address climate change. The most notable agreement happened in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. Dubbed the Kyoto Protocol, it ordered 37 industrialized nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. rejected that pact, and since then our federal government has shown little-to-no leadership on the issue.
But what a difference a year makes. In its first public statement at the conference, the United States addressed two key issues head-on with commitments for action: First, a pledge to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 17% by 2020; and second, a $10 billion pledge with other nations intended to help developing countries grow their economies while cutting emissions. U.S. envoy Jonathan Pershing spoke forcefully, signaling that a new regime in Washington meant real leadership on climate change for the world.
Despite public skepticism, it has become clear that something is going to happen here. People from all over the world have come together to solve the most serious problem of our lifetime. Nothing less than the future of nature and humanity is at stake. I just hope the agreement is sufficiently strong and that action happens quickly.