The University of Michigan received official observer status for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), held in Copenhagen from December 7-18, 2009. I am very happy to be part of the University’s delegation that will participate in this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP-15).
As a civil and environmental engineering student, I am trained by my professor’s to apply math and science in solving problems that people face worldwide. I trust that to do this adequately we must pursue an interdisciplinary approach and should integrate information from several fields.
By attending the UN Climate Change Convention I hope to better understand the integration of science and policy. I believe this is an opportunity to place my background in science and technology in a global legislative context.
The exposure to numerous resources, publications and material on several subjects and listening to great debates related to climate change issues will benefit me directly but given my interest in the area I hope to share these ideas with others through this blog.
The intention of the UNFCCC is to negotiate and ratify an international climate agreement and the framework to reduce global emissions that would begin in 2012, the end of the first commitment of the Kyoto Protocol. Over 10,000 people from nearly 200 countries will convene in Copenhagen to express their ideas, advocate and negotiate this commitment to stabilize GHG at a level that prevents climate change.
“At UNFCCC climate change refers to a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” (IPCC AR4)
Climate change can be a divisive topic; however, I hope that at COP-15 all participants arrive with an attitude of cooperation.
The Kyoto Protocol is a commitment that sets binding targets for each country to reduce GHG. Each country has different targets but the goal is to collectively reduce GHG by an average of about 5% against 1990 levels during the period of 2008-2012. This is “common but differentiated responsibility.”
Countries must meet their targets through national measures but the Kyoto Protocol helps them by allowing Emissions Trading (Carbon Market), clean development mechanisms (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI).
Although negotiated by many countries in December 1997, the Kyoto Protocol did not come into effect until 2005. This shows the difficulty in trying to pass environmental legislation.
There are several key factors to consider in setting environmental legislation including: the environmental goal, potential impact, existing laws, financial impact and political system. Passing environmental legislation is quite difficult because it is constantly met with an opposition that fears financial losses or difficulty implementing it.
In fact, during a Energy and Policy class lecture, our guest speaker, a VP of environmental management and resources at a prominent energy industry and committee member of Business Environmental Leadership Council of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, the Board of the Council of Great Lakes Industries, Michigan Sustainable Business Form, among others, suggested that no environmental requirement passes that does not provide financial gain to someone. I would be interested in knowing if there is a correlation between a country’s GDP and their environmental requirements.
I hope that through the COP-15 we can change our mentality such that we integrate environmental requirements and financial gain instead of holding them in opposition. I will be interested in learning how our environment and natural resources can be more adequately valued to reflect financial gains.
Written by ANJULI JAIN.