The 3 Biggest Challenges The Cop20 Will Face

Today marks the third day of the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP20), a 12-day forum where world leaders, heads of state, environmental and business interest groups, and politics – an estimated 10,000 total in attendance – will pen down (hopefully) realistic goals to prevent further human-induced climate change. Since the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Kyoto Protocol that followed, the leading industrialized nations of the world have been meeting at the conference – held in Lima, Peru this year – an in attempt to establish regulations around greenhouse gas emissions. As scientists have almost collectively agreed that the warming of the planet by 3.6 degrees is inevitable and unpreventable, the COP20 faces challenges that will significantly alter the way the conference is run this year compared to past meetings. Here’s what’s changed going into the meeting:

  • The players: whereas most COP’s involved leading developed nations, this year will include 195 developing and developed countries, as it has been widely received that all parties are needed in order for a change to occur.
  • The mindset: the previous attitude for dealing with climate change has been regulatory and punitive – the meetings often revolved around mandating how much greenhouse gases each country was allowed emit. Clearly, this tactic has failed.
  • The goals: no country is being asked to define exactly what it’s contribution to curbing climate change will be during this COP; rather this conference serves as a platform to transparently offer solutions to be discussed rather than last minute commitments
  • The starting point: the groundbreaking agreement between China and the US has set an optimistic tone and painted developed nations in a more positive light than in the past.

Here’s the COP20’s biggest challenges regarding commitments:

  1. Immediate Targets vs. Future Targets: there has been much disagreement about which is more important, making drastic changes in hopes of seeing immediate results, or making long-term goals that will have a lasting impact.
  2. Developed vs. Developing Nations: Who should contribute more – those who can but have caused little harm to begin with or those who have caused the most harm but face more complications if they are to change?
  3. Common Playing Field vs. Individual Circumstances: Is it fair to mandate that each nation contribute the same, or should individual circumstances be considered? For example, Australia is a coal-based economy and would suffer greatly from switching to alternative energy.

What do you think of these challenges? What side do you stand on? We will cover more as the conference continues into next week, stay tuned!

Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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