Representatives from every government in the world just concluded two weeks of discussions in Warsaw, Poland on how to collectively address climate change at the 19th annual meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 19).
Most years, the host city’s largest convention center houses the meeting’s 10,000+ participants. This year, however, Poland’s National Stadium was the venue for the dialogue, raising the question of how similar, and how different, the political exchanges are to a sports match.
COP 19 Goalposts
There were several major issues to “score” on in Warsaw. While also addressing some smaller issues, governments were expected to find ways to advance negotiations on:
- REDD+ guidelines for international implementation and coordination. REDD+, a system that provides financial incentives for developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by preventing the destruction of their forests, has been successfully implemented in many pilot projects, but requires additional guidelines and coordination to function effectively at the national and international levels.
- Addressing loss and damage. It was decided at the 2012 COP that this year countries would agree on a mechanism to address “loss and damage,” or what to do when adaptation is not enough to address climate change impacts, such as if an island disappears due to sea level rise.
- Provision of climate finance. Almost every issue under the UNFCCC hinges on finance — how much money is needed, who should provide it and to whom it should be given. Although some progress has been made in the past, there is no clear roadmap for scaling up the private and public sector resources needed.
- Creation of a new climate agreement by 2015. At the 2011 COP, countries decided to negotiate a new climate agreement by 2015 that would go into effect in 2020. With little time left before 2015, governments needed to define a roadmap for negotiations and lay the foundation for these discussions in Warsaw.
The first half of the conference saw action largely as expected. There was some back and forth on the issues, and while there were no excessive delays as we had seen earlier this year in Bonn, it was clear countries knew they had the second half for their big push. However, we were pleased to see some concrete gains made, including the decision to strengthen information sharing on ecosystem-based adaptation.
Even so, a nervous energy ran through all participants as the whistle blew for the second half, as we all wondered if goals could be made, or if the meeting would end in deadlock.