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COP 20 boot camp: working hard to fight climate change

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Outside COP 20

Uninhabitable.

I got chills when I read that word in a recent New York Times article about the current state of affairs of negotiating a global climate deal. Those chills persist, despite or maybe because of recent news from the World Meteorological Organization: 2014 is proving to be one of, if not the, hottest year on record.

I read the article a few days before traveling to Lima, Peru as part of WWF’s delegation to what is my first United Nations climate COP (Conference of the Parties, for those as clueless as I was about UN vernacular).

This is the 20th annual summit and it’s a big one—representatives from nearly 200 countries are gathered here to negotiate the outline of a global climate agreement that will go into effect at the next COP in Paris in December 2015. If countries can’t agree on a plan to curb and eventually eliminate emissions in relatively short order, those increasing temperatures that are sending chills down my spine will only climb higher and forever change our wonderful, magical, utterly rare home—and not for the better.

Living in the Washington, DC area, I’m used to acronyms—EPA, DoD, CIA, POTUS, and so on. But even Alphabet City left me ill prepared for the baffling world of UN speak. I received a list of acronyms as part of my preparatory materials. It was 10 pages long. The language of COP 20 is complicated. The issues of climate change and COP negotiations are far more complicated. But listening to our WWF experts talk about the issues helped boil things down to what it all really means for you and me and our seven billion housemates.

We are running out of time.

We, all of us, must act not only swiftly but aggressively, more aggressively than ever before. If we don’t, we will see the impacts already in force—a warming planet, droughts, floods, extinction of species, food and drinking water shortages—become even more severe. When I think of that kind of future for my children, I fear for them. And I know we’re the lucky ones. We live in a country with vast resources.

The poorest and most vulnerable people and natural habitats around the world will be impacted most severely. Fighting climate change, therefore, is about social justice, too. The “haves” must take action to help the “have nots” weather the coming storm and adapt in ways that ensure their futures.

Although I’m new to the COP world, and despite all the wonky policy minutia that is part of COP, it’s easy to wax on philosophically about something as complex and technical as climate change, when you begin understanding what’s at stake. WWF policy experts here in Lima are doing all they can to ensure governments make climate change a top political priority now, for the next year on the road to Paris, and beyond. Here are some of the outcomes we’re working with governments and civil society to achieve:

  • scaling up renewable energy consumption to 25 per cent and double energy efficiency by 2020
  • developed countries increase their existing emission reduction commitments
  • governments must build a safe future for us all, especially the vulnerable by agreeing to elements of a new 2015 deal
  • agreeing on a global Adaptation goal
  • committing support for actions to curb deforestation and include forests in the 2015 Agreement
  • agreeing on a mechanism to help those who will suffer permanent loss and damage due to impacts of climate change
  • agreeing to a carbon budget in line with science; and a long-term goal of phasing out fossil fuels and phase-in to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050
  • committing to finance and support at the scale needed for ambitious actions.

Being at COP boot camp has taught me much about the above issues. And supporting our WWF team, with people from all corners of the world, with their tireless passion and nearly around-the-clock drive, gives me hope that we can do what is necessary to keep our planet habitable not merely for some but for all.

Anand Mishra works in conservation communications for WWF International. He is based in Washington, DC. Anand.Mishra@wwfus.org

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