A panel of UCSB faculty members met yesterday to discuss last month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Four professors, along with Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board Co-chair Nick Allen, discussed their viewpoints on the summit and possibilities for future climate change legislation. Professor Oran Young, who represented the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the conference, said the meeting was historic because it was the first time since the creation of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that world leaders — representing a record 192 nations — met to discuss climate change.
However, Young said many environmentalists, politicians and academics were dissatisfied by the outcome of the conference since it failed to produce a legally binding agreement. Instead, the delegates recognized the Copenhagen Accord, a document drafted by the U.S., China, India, Brazil and South Africa.
“What was negotiated at the last minute in Copenhagen was a political document known as the Copenhagen Accord. … It was negotiated by a group of 26 countries with no formal authority,” Young said. “What the Copenhagen Accord does not do is commit anyone to anything beyond a political statement … and it does not provide any timeline for when the Accord will move from being a political document to a legally binding document.”
Despite the initial disappointment, global studies professor Raymond Clemencon said he was optimistic about the future. Clemencon said the conference laid some groundwork for future progress on climate change, beginning with the next climate change conference in Mexico City this December.
“The conference organizers were faced with the choice of letting it fail or coming up with at least some document, some text,” Clemencon said. “Personally, I’m hopeful. I think it is a step forward, and I hope that more and more countries come to the conclusion that it is a step forward.”
Moreover, Allen said the environmental movement is gaining momentum due to the dedicated efforts of the younger generation of environmentalists who hold the key to fighting climate change.
“I think a lot of the time when [people] think about youth and politics, especially at the international level, they think about activism and radicalism,” Allen said. “We were recognized as an official group at the conference. … We had our own arcade where we could share our perspectives.”
ClarificationTo be clear, this was not the first meeting of world leaders from the parties to the Kyoto Protocol since 1997. What is significant about the 15th Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen this winter is the number of heads of state, 115 in total, that were in attendance for at least some portion of the negotiations. This marks a shifting of priorities on the international political agenda, as never before have so many high level representatives from all over the world shown such dedication to working multilaterally to address climate change. As this issue is further legitimized in the… Read more »