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There Is A Perception That Climate Change Is Still An Environmental Issue
Reflections from the United Nations Climate Change Conference, held in Poznan, Poland, from Dec. 1 - 12.
This is the first time I have attended a Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The COP meets every year to review the implementation of the Convention. I expected it to be this big, but what I did not expect is for it to feel like a small community, almost like a family where everyone is working on climate change. It actually seems manageable. Many people know each other and you frequently meet people again and again. It is strange, because the venue is big and there are more than 10,000 people gathered here. I would have expected it to be more confusing, almost like a volcano.
Of course, the debates are very technical. You have to be well prepared and understand the details. This reduces the number of people who can actually contribute to the discussions. The level of expertise needed to follow the issues here perhaps makes it a more closed community. I think there is a level of disconnect with the outside world. It is challenging to translate what is going on here to the general public and to people walking in streets of Poznan. Maybe the overall concept is clear, but the devil is in the details. Parties must reach an agreement and stakeholders have to be involved, so the details are where compromise must be found.
There is a perception that Climate Change is still an environmental issue. People congratulate development organizations like CARE for their contributions and participation here. I have the feeling that development is not at the core of the climate negotiation business. However, as a CARE staff, from my perceptions of what is going on in countries in Africa, for example, and from looking at the projections, it is obvious to me why we are here. CARE has a critical competency to bring to the negotiations: how to adapt to Climate Change. Poor people are already experiencing the consequences of shifting climate patterns.
Environmental activists are very present here at COP14. The polar bear puppet, for instance, is sitting at the entrance of the COP. This makes sense, but what about the impact of climate change on people? This is less visible. The dominant mindset is that climate change is about the environment and not about people. Somewhere along the line, communication has broken down. We must overcome this knowledge gap and bring the focus back on people.
Background: The negotiating process on climate change revolves around the sessions of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which meets every year to review the implementation of the Convention. The COP serves as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), which also adopts decisions and resolutions on the implementation of its provisions. For the sake of simplicity, the COP/CMP is termed “United Nations Climate Conference’.This year's meeting was particularly important, as it precedes the CoP 15 meeting of 2009, where decisions regarding the post-Kyoto protocol will have to be finalized.