Copenhagen Climate Summit 2009: What is COP15?If you haven't heard about Copenhagen 2009, listen up.
In December of this year, global minds will meet in Copenhagen to make an action plan to address climate change for when the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. The conference will be the latest in the annual UN meetings that stem from the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio; the original summit that coordinated international efforts to fight climate change.
What is COP15?
Known as COP15 (because it's the 15th in the series of conferences), the conference will attract the world's environment ministers as well as more than 15,000 officials, advisers, diplomats, campaigners and journalists to Denmark. For two weeks the world will be watching as global leaders carve out the new rules for climate change.
Adopted for use in 2005, The Kyoto Protocol is an international environmental treaty under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that established legally binding guidelines for the reduction of four greenhouse gasses (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, sulphur hexafluoride) and the gas groups of hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.
Industrialized countries that ratified, or "agreed to", the protocol committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% over 1990's emission rate. As of January 2009, there were 183 participating countries working to reduce their emissions. There was the potential for many more countries to ratify the protocol, but getting that many countries to agree to a set of guidelines governing pollution is challenging, to say the least. "This is the most complicated deal the world has ever tried to put together," says Tom Burke, visiting professor at Imperial College and an adviser on climate change to the Foreign Office. "In effect, you're asking nearly 200 countries to align their energy policies – to create a common world energy policy. If you look at how hard it has been for the member states of the European Union to align their energy policies, you get an idea of the difficulty of attempting it with the whole world."
Kyoto and the US
The US rejected the 1997 Kyoto protocol. Former president George Bush argued that the 5% reduction required by Kyoto would "wreck [the American] economy" and made no demands on (at the time) emerging economies like China and India. Thankfully, COP15's chances of success have been improved by President Barack Obama's agenda to achieve an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In April, secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the US was "determined to make up for lost time both at home and abroad". "The US is no longer absent without leave," she said.
What can you do?
In the countdown to Copenhagen, you can take action by demanding that world leaders attend the conference and address their country's obligations to fighting climate change. Send a letter to world leaders like President Obama, President Hu Jintao of China, French President Nicolas Sarcozy, among others.
In the months leading up to COP15, we'll keep updating you on the issues and ways you can take action.