COP15 — a window of opportunity to act on climate change
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. To meet this challenge, most countries, back in 1992, joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The objective of UNFCCC is to stabilise the atmospheric content of greenhouse gases at a level that prevents dangerous human-made climate change. The convention is a “framework convention.” This means that it is a comprehensive tool for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but contains no binding obligations to reduce them.
Each year, countries from all over the world meet for the annual climate change conference (Conference of Parties). From December 7-18 Denmark will be the host of the 15th Conference of Parties. The focus of the negotiations in Copenhagen will be the need to agree upon a new fair, ambitious and global agreement on climate change.
It took nearly eight years to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and the Copenhagen conference represents almost the last chance to agree on a new agreement if it is to be approved and ratified prior to the expiry of the binding commitments in the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.
In 2007, at the climate change conference in Bali, all countries agreed to the Bali Action Plan with the objective of an agreed outcome in Copenhagen in 2009. The action plan set out the structure of a future agreement with a long-term shared vision and four building blocks for a new agreement — technology, finance, mitigation and adaptation.
It is the ambition that a new global climate change agreement, like the Kyoto Protocol today, will regulate the generated part of global greenhouse gas emissions in order to curb global warming. The negative effects of climate change are felt all over the world, with heavy rainfalls, devastating storms and increasing droughts.
Global warming is threatening the habitats of plants and animals, pressuring food production and melting the ice caps in Greenland and the Arctic, causing sea level to rise. The temperature rise is caused by increased amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, not least CO2, which is mainly related to human use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the damage caused by global warming will be irreversible if CO2 emissions are not reduced within the next ten years.
Denmark hosts COP15
COP15 will be hosted in the Danish capital Copenhagen from December 7 to December 18. Denmark takes its role as host for COP15 very seriously. “To host such an event is a great honour. Denmark takes on this task humbly and well aware that no matter how hard we try, we have no guarantee for success. We will work for an ambitious result. But by disagreeing, one country can make the whole thing tumble. As hosts, we, therefore, have special obligations. We must listen and mediate in order to make sure that we reach an agreement and that all countries are on board, says Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for Climate.
The goal of the conference is to enter into a binding global climate change agreement, which will follow the Kyoto Protocol, when it first commitment period expires in 2012.
COP15 will be one of the biggest UN conferences ever held outside New York and Geneva, with an estimated attendance of between 12,000 to 15,000 delegates, including NGOs and journalists. The Conference will take place in “Bella Center.” A number of related events will be hosted in and around Copenhagen in the period up to and during COP15, all aimed at creating support for a new global climate deal and drawing attention to the fight against climate change.
The Danish example — towards an energy efficient and climate friendly economy
A central argument for resisting binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is concern for economic growth. However, experience from Denmark shows that with a persistent and active energy policy focused on increasing energy efficiency it is possible to maintain high economic growth, while at the same time reducing the dependency on fossil fuels and protecting the environment.
Denmark’s energy efficiency is today among the highest in the EU, and continues to rise each year. The country has one of the most efficient uses of energy and a low level of CO2-emission in relation to production levels, compared to other EU and OECD countries. Since 1980, Denmark’s economy has grown by 78%, alongside nearly stable energy consumption and reduced CO2 emissions.
The country’s sustainable growth has been created by a combination of investments in technological development, green taxes and a political effort to promote the use of renewable energy. Since the 1970s Denmark has seen major investments and research into alternative energy sources, especially wind, and efficiency improvements of existing power stations.
Today, renewable energy comprises 19% of overall energy consumption. This has increased energy supply security and contributed significantly to the attainment of Denmark’s climate targets. From 1990 to 2007, economic activity in Denmark increased by more than 45%, while CO2 emissions decreased by more than 13%.
The Danish capital has preserved its old-world charm of cobbled streets and historic buildings, whilst becoming a distinctly modern city with trendy cafes and plenty of green spaces. The city is a good showcase of Denmark’s sustainable approach, as it is the first in the world so far to put Agenda 21 into practice. Agenda 21 is a program launched at the 1992 UN conference in Rio to promote sustainable development globally and locally.
The overall goal of the strategy is to make the city the world’s eco-metropolis by 2015, by striving for human, cultural, and economic development to meet sustainability criteria. The strategy focuses on putting global thinking into local action and covers a wide range of initiatives, including cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier food, less traffic noise, better use of resources, more green areas, and greater biodiversity.
So far, Copenhagen municipality has made the harbour clean enough to swim in, and has introduced one of the best waste handling systems in the world. Almost 90% of all construction waste is recycled and 75% of all household refuse is incinerated. The energy resulting from the incineration is used for district heating and electricity.
Copenhagen is also famous for its bicycling population, as a staggering 36% of inhabitants rely on bicycles as their main means of transport. The city plans to increase the number of bicyclists to 50% by 2015, through a doubling of spending on bicycle lanes and bicycle stands and other initiatives. When it comes to food, Copenhageners also figure amongst the most environmentally conscious in the world. 51% of food consumption in public institutions and a world record of 23% of private food consumption are organic.
The official COP15 website http://www.cop15.dk is available in seven languages and provides daily updates on COP15 and the climate change issues in general.
His Excellency Einar Hebogard Jensen is Ambassador of Denmark to Bangladesh.
Source: The Daily Star, 28 August 2009