Now back in New Haven, CT, a week after the conclusion of the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, the Yale Climate & Energy Institute’s COP18 Fellows reflect on their experiences and some of the key highlights of the conference.
What was your overall impression of the COP-18?
The Yale Climate and Energy Institute (YCEI) organized and hosted an interdisciplinary panel of climate scientists, policymakers, and practitioners at the UN Climate Conference held in Doha, Qatar last month to discuss the intersection of air quality and climate change science and policy. While negotiators from nearly 200 countries spent two weeks hammering out political nuances and technical details of climate agreements, one aspect that was notably absent was discussion of the relationship between greenhouse gas (GHGs) and aerosol emissions.
The President of Yale, Richard C. Levin, once asked:
“How do we prevent the continued consumption of fossil fuels from warming our planet to the point that ecosystems are destroyed, food supplies are threatened, and rising sea levels force hundreds of millions to relocate?”
Last month in Doha, the world sought to find an answer. There, at the 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP18, a sizeable delegation from Yale was present to address the question.
The graphic shows global energy subsidies in 2010 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). With fossil-fuel consumption subsidies at $409 billion and renewable energy subsidies at only $66 billion, this state of artificial competitivity creates an imbalance in the market values of the two energy sources.
The Qatari National Convention Center advertises itself as beyond convention. It is indeed a building to remember. The distinctive facade was inspired by the symbolism of the branches of a native tree, the Sidra, which has traditionally provided a shaded meeting place for travelers in dry lands.
Discussions on climate adaptation at COP18 generally glossed over the issue of climate migrants–people whose displacement is the direct result of climate change and the extreme weather events it brings. As negotiators look toward the future of UNFCCC negotiations, they must confront this pressing crisis.
Climate change loads the dice for more frequent and severe extreme weather events which lead to the displacement of people. Scientists are using new data to understand the motivations behind their exodus and definitively link the humanitarian challenge of migration with climate change.
“We want our children to live in an America that […] isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” Many still remember this brief, yet hopeful and encouraging moment during Obama’s acceptance speech after his re-election in November.
Articles 1 and 4 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change charter make specific reference to human health, and the importance of seeing health as part of the broader need for bold action on climate change. To go one step further, we need to think of improving health as a key part of sustainable development, and a powerful indicator of poverty reduction.
For a week I have been trying to put my finger on the cause of the fog that I feel at COP18.
Durban felt better than Doha. There is a lingering feeling that something vital is missing, and I’m sorry to say that I am underwhelmed because of it. To be fair, last year was my first COP, and there’s always something extra special about the initiation experience because the future experiences tend to have diminishing returns.