Focus on Climate Change

December 2009

..... To Copenhagen

Replanting mangrove forests, here in Myanmar, protect against the effects of climate change / JICA file photo Replanting mangrove forests, here in Myanmar, protect against the effects of climate change / JICA file photo

What is the Copenhagen climate change conference?

The conference is a successor to the Kyoto protocol and is the latest in an annual series of United Nations meetings which began at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro aimed at coordinating international action to combat climate change.

Who is taking part?

Some 192 countries have signed the climate change convention. More than 15,000 officials including heads of state, environmental ministers, advisers, diplomats, advocacy groups and journalists are attending the meeting, officially known as COP15.

What does COP15 stand for?

It is the official name of the Copenhagen conference—the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The COP is the highest body of the UNFCCC and includes environment ministers who meet once a year to discuss developments in the convention.

JICA has provided vital assistance to build a new, clean rapid transit system in the Indian capital of New Delhi / JICA file photoJICA has provided vital assistance to build a new, clean rapid transit system in the Indian capital of New Delhi / JICA file photo

Who are the main players?

The United States, currently the world’s worst polluter, rejected the Kyoto Protocol though the Obama administration has signaled a major policy shift on climate and environmental issues. The U.S. has insisted that emerging economies must also share the burden of reducing carbon emissions while countries such as China and India believe it is the responsibility of the major industrialized countries to take the lead and shoulder major responsibility. Japan has taken an active role on the issue. In addition to hosting Kyoto 1997 Tokyo has announced such initiatives as Cool Earth 50 aimed at reducing global emissions 50% by the year 2050. Much of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) supports projects in developing countries to fight climate change and help millions of the world’s poorest people to meet the challenges posed by the crisis.

What are this conference’s aims?

The announced aim was agreement on a new climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol, the first phase of which expires in 2012, but it appeared likely the negotiation process would continue into 2010. Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of UNFCCC four essentials are necessary for any final agreement: a strong undertaking by industrialized countries to significantly reduce carbon emissions; commitments by emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil to limit their own footprints; plans to help developing countries reduce emissions and adapt to new realities; adequate funding to meet all of these challenges.

What are the main problems?

Burden sharing is the ‘elephant in the room.” Many world scientists agree that by 2050 the world needs to cut emissions by 80% compared with 1990 levels to limit global warming to a two degree centigrade average rise. But there is no agreement on which countries should cut emissions, by how much and who will help provide the billions of dollars necessary to assist poorer countries to successfully participate in the overall initiative.

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