14 November 2017, COP23 (Conference of the Parties) has just concluded in Bonn, Germany and it seems the results are mixed. Although many of the processes set in place at the Paris Agreement were pushed forward to be finalized next year in Poland, the conference also delayed action on other key issues.
The Ocean Is Finally On the Agenda
One thing that sets this year’s conference apart is that although land based initiatives have been paramount in past COP meetings, since this year’s event was hosted by the Pacific Island of Fiji the ocean was finally on the agenda. And well it should be, the ocean is where all life began and its role in shaping our climate is ever present. (photo – Spielvogel/Wikimedia Commons)
The ocean produces half of all the oxygen on earth and by acting as a carbon and heat sink, the ocean slows climate change. The ocean provides food and livelihood for one billion of the planet’s inhabitants but for too long it has been treated as a dumping ground and its fish populations have been decimated.
Although the UN has been in existence for 72 years, it only held its first Ocean Conference this year and ocean issues have been on the sidelines during past COP Climate negotiations until last week. Finally, possibly things are changing. Fijian life is inextricably linked to the ocean and consequently Fiji used its position as the host of COP23 to push for oceans to be included in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
A new unlikely alliance formed between Nordic countries and (SIDS) Small Island Developing States is striving for reduced carbon emissions and the protection and restoration of coastlines and marine ecosystems. Another proposal is to create a Marine Protected Area covering the entire Arctic Circle.
See our Blue Ocean articles: Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary Needs Your Help plus Sea Shepherd’s attempts to create a similar MPA in the Antarctic, see: Hopes Dashed, Hopes Raised for World’s largest MPA in Eastern Antarctic.
Action on other Issues was delayed
During the climate talks there were repeated calls for a more ambitious slashing of carbon emissions, however, nothing conclusive was accomplished. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany announced that “Climate change is an issue determining our destiny as mankind,” but also acknowledged that Germany would most likely miss its emissions goals due to its continued reliance on coal. China’s greenhouse gasses are likely to rise because of a rebound in its coal fired power plants.
A more positive note was struck when over 20 countries joined the Power Past Coal Alliance led by the UK and Canada pledging to totally end the use of coal by 2030.
Everything’s Fine Says the U.S., Use More Coal!
Since the U.S. is the only country remaining outside of the Paris Climate Accords its delegation essentially remained on the sidelines at COP23. However, they did perversely host a “clean coal” event promoting the global expansion of coal and bazarrely defending its use as a way to slow climate change. A response came from the Pope see our article: Pope Advises COP23 Forum “Don’t Be Stupid.”
The U.S. delegation was more successful in leading efforts to defeat an attempt by poorer countries that were seeking an increase in climate aid from rich countries.
A larger impact was created by the “unofficial” U.S. presence of business leaders, governors, senators and mayors including the past mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg who stated, “We’re here because it’s in our national security interests to deal with climate change.”
Pittsburgh’s mayor, William Peduto, stated that the mayors of 367 American cities have agreed to remain “part of the Paris Agreement no matter what our Federal Government did.” U.S. Companies from Microsoft to Bank of America echoed “We Are Still In” as a renewal of their commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate agreement.
There is still a long way to go and the 2017 COP23 conference has only gotten us part way there. The Paris Agreement reached at COP21 in December 2015 committed the world to keeping global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to “pursue efforts to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius.” However, a realistic analysis, today, indicates that the non-binding pledges reached so far, indicate an increase of 2.7 to 3.7 degrees Celsius by 2100 to be likely. Consequently COP24 to be held in Poland in 2018 may be a last chance for implementing real movement. Time is running out.
Here are some additional links for the COP23 conference:
Day 12 at COP23: The Bonn Climate Conference wraps up with action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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