This week in Warsaw, Poland, delegations from across the globe are gathering to discuss one of the biggest issues of our time at the 19th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 19). Before heading to Warsaw, Shyla Raghav, CI’s senior manager of climate adaptation policy, took time to answer some of my questions.
Without a clear roadmap on mobilizing funds to meet agreed goals, negotiators are unable to adequately scale up both public and private sector sources of funding. (© Conservation International/photo by Jan Schipper)
Q: After minimal progress at the annual climate meeting last year in Qatar, many in the climate community aren’t expecting much big news coming out of the Warsaw conference. Why go through with the conference at all?
A: Those of us who work on climate change issues work more than two weeks a year. Despite the somewhat dismal state of negotiations, oftentimes the main highlight of COP meetings is the platform it provides participants to share ideas, expand the scientific and policy knowledge base and forge partnerships that catalyze action at various levels around the world. Particularly for an international organization like CI, COPs allow us to pull together our staff, expertise and experience from across the globe to collaborate and coordinate our efforts, learning from successes and challenges alike.
I would be remiss not to mention, however, the disappointment within the climate change community regarding the snail-like pace of the negotiations. The increasing body of science indicating the need to act on reducing emissions and building resilient societies has not been matched with adequate political will to take concrete steps to confront the climate crisis. However, thanks to the Durban Platform — the outcome document of the 2011 COP — there is tremendous potential for the process to produce a comprehensive new climate treaty in 2015 that puts our global community on a pathway to reducing emissions.
While we must continue to support the negotiation process (after all, the world has no other forum that will allow us to confront global challenges collectively), the biggest end result of this COP may in fact be a revitalized understanding of how climate change links to all aspects and sectors of life. There’s tremendous scope to advance beyond what has been discussed at COP through civil society networks and platforms.
Q: Do you think the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will influence the negotiations?
A: Absolutely. The IPCC’s Working Group I (WGI) report, which explores the physical science basis of climate change, has reconfirmed that climate change is real, caused by humans, and has already resulted in severe impacts such as droughts, floods and increased storm intensity.
While these impacts are already severely impacting many regions of the world, the consequences of inaction will continue to amplify based on our current and future emissions. Having surpassed an atmospheric concentration of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change, the urgency to act is ever more prevalent if warming is to be limited to 2 degrees Celsius, beyond which catastrophic impacts are projected.
The IPCC findings will serve as an important reminder to negotiators and COP participants and will likely form the foundation of discussions and negotiations.