Moravian College first attended the U.N. climate conferences in 2009 at COP15 in Copenhagen. We were very green (in the sense of not knowing much about the complexities of how the UNFCCC functions or how crazy COP meetings could be). We quickly learned that tickets to special events were distributed through focal points or constituency groups. Subsequently, we requested to join RINGOs – the Research and Independent Non-governmental Organizations constituency group.
According to their website (http://www.ringos.net/), RINGOs is comprised of “organizations engaged in independent research and analysis aimed at developing sound strategies to address both the causes and consequences of global climate change. They form a constituency in their own right to contribute to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in a parallel way to ENGOs (Environment), BINGOs (Business and Industry), LGMAs (Local governments and municipal authorities) and the IPOs (Indigenous peoples organizations).” The newest constituency group, YOUNGOs, is the focal point for youth groups; my son Corey has been actively participating with this group over the past two years both as an individual from the Moravian College delegation and representing Inconvenient Youth (http://www.inconvenientyouth.org/).
During meetings of the UNFCCC the RINGOs gather every other day to discuss the developments of the negotiations. We had the first meeting at COP17 on Day 2. Individuals in the group represented a wide range of countries, organizations, and fields of expertise. The latter range from geologists interested in carbon capture and sequestration, economists who consider things such as finance issues associated with negotiations (such as the Green Climate Fund) and carbon markets, missionaries, experts in peaceful dispute resolution or climate justice, and environmental lawyers. In this meeting, I was surprised to learn that I was the only one who does anything related to ecology and climate change or works in conservation.
In just two days, I have already noted a much stronger emphasis on climate justice by most in attendance -- a focus sharpened by the severe storms that hit Durban the night before the opening of the conference. Climate/gender issues seems to be a new theme this year. But I am quite surprised that conservation and biodiversity are themes that have now been marginalized. There is talk of water (but for people and agriculture) and there is talk of energy ranging from (cough) clean coal to carbon sequestration to biofuels to some renewable energy alternatives. But habitat and non-human species are certainly not front and center.
In the RINGOs meeting, the following were identified as key things to follow over the two weeks in Durban:
- Adaptation (not in the ecological sense)
- Carbon capture and sequestration initiatives
- Carbon markets
- REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation)
- Technology transfer (from those who have to those who don’t)
- The fate of the Kyoto Protocol and any future legally binding agreements as opposed to a deregulatory “pledge” (and trust) system with less accountability and no penalties for noncompliance. There have been comments by both Canada and the U.S. to the effect that it is “time to put Kyoto behind us”, largely due both to the extent to which China has developed since that international agreement (it is now the largest emitter of GHGs; but not per capita – that honor belongs to us) and the loss of political will in North America to commit to legally-binding GHG emission reductions and financial assistance to those countries experiencing the impacts of climate change.
- Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and the associated funding
- The formulation of the Green Climate Fund – a concept first conceived in Cancun
- The possible creation of an Annex C – that moves the Kyoto Protocol out of the U.N. framework – as a move to save it.
These are complex issues, so if you have questions, let me know!