“We either all win or lose” – Thoughts on the Warsaw Climate Change Conference

Beforehand the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC), which was held in November 2013 in Warsaw, the conference was not seen as a place where big decisions would be made. Instead it was seen as a negotiation pathway for the next climate conference in 2015 in Paris. Even though some points have been decided by the participating countries and reports have been written, one can see that most of them are only schemes which lack concrete goals and regulations. Due to the reduced ambition from the participators, even civil society groups quit the summit to express their disappointment. For example, many of the participating countries have been calling for a set timetable in order to make clear commitments towards climate change by 2015. However, some of the poorer countries wanted more flexibility. Nevertheless, decisions on further advancing the Durban Platform have been adopted and negotiations regarding regulations and funds in order to tackle CO2 emissions and a sustainable economic growth have been accomplished during the summit. The most important decisions that have been adopted are the so called “Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage” and the “Warsaw REDD+ framework”, as an example of Loss and Damages.

The Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage can be seen as a global pact which aims to cut down CO2 emissions in order to limit global warming to 2 percent. However, no agreements were made on the level of cuts needed or how each country contributes to the cuts. The participating countries are supposed to present their goals in early 2015. Therefore the Loss and Damage Mechanism can, at this point, only be seen as a pathway for the next climate conference. According to the so called Climate Demography Vulnerability Index (CDVI), which was developed by scientists from the McGill University in Montreal, the countries who contributed the least greenhouse gas emissions are the ones who will be most impacted by climate change.  Due to the unavoidable effects of extreme climate, Industrial countries establish a fund worth 100bn Dollar a year in order to help developing countries dealing with the damages caused by climate change. Further projects shall support poor countries to enhance climate protection and a low-carbon economy, including the use of renewable energies.  A transfer of resources, such as technologies and knowledge, is needed to enable low-emission approaches in poorer countries. However, these countries claim that money is one of the most important resources. It needs to be provided by developed countries because they were the ones who had the most important impact on damaging the climate in the past.

One framework which is established as part of the Mechanism on Loss and Damage is the Warsaw REDD+ Framework. Different activities aim to reduce the drivers and emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to support a sustainable management of forests. The implementation of REDD+ will be an important contributor to emissions reductions. When it came to financing those actions no real decision have been made during the UNFCCC, but a baseline for a series of further meetings has been established. The REDD+ will be financed by industrial countries which will also give technological support. However, the payments will be results-based. Therefore monitoring systems have to provide transparent data and information on this topic. In my opinion this leads to a greater need of transnational cooperation. In order to enhance this framework, incentives should be given to all countries, in order to drive the implementation forward.

All in all one can see, that the climate conference did not take real and binding instruments or decision makings into place. It seems as if the topics lack urgency and more time is spent in negotiating than in taking actions. From my point of view it is not only necessary to react to the most urgent problems, but also to act proactive. Investing in renewable energies and raising awareness about environmental problems should be key elements in every country, so that a real change can be made. There is still a dichotomy of the world in “poor” and “rich” countries, which can prevent them from important decision makings. In my opinion it is important for future negotiations that the countries gain trust and ease tensions in order to work on a collective goal. I believe that legally binding agreements with a clear road map need to be determined. Those need to take all countries into responsibility, depending on their CO2 emission. Different economic tools, such as taxes or a system of cap and trade can make a contribution, but there is no one single solution. However, we also need to stop dumping responsibilities and decision makings on the politicians but rather start to be aware of our personal responsibility. As Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary stated, we need to realize that it “is not a game: we either all win or lose”.


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