COP17: The road to Durban


COP17, a United Nations meeting of almost 200 countries will, over the next two weeks, be looking for a solution to man-made climate change. Charlotte Reid looks at what is on the agenda at the worldwide conference.

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) will take place in Durban, South Africa next week, with 15,000 delegates taking part, from nearly 200 countries.

Between November 28th and December 9th, they will be discussing the future of the Kyoto Protocol, and will be looking to reach a legally-binding agreement to prevent the world temperature from rising another 2°C.

The delegates attending the conference will include people such as presidents, ministers and government officials, as well as scientists, advisers and business people.

It is poignant that the talks are taking place in South Africa this year, as hundreds of African activists are making their way to the conference in the Caravan of Hope to explain how climate change is already having an impact on their continent and their lives.

Before the conference, there was a well-timed release of over 5,000 potentially damaging email exchanges between climate researchers from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. This was believed to be an attempt to copy Climategate in 2009, where similarly over 1,000 emails were accessed and published online.

The emails revealed in 2009 suggested to the public that scientists had been manipulating data. This prompted a number of enquiries, which concluded that the leaked emails did not change the fact that global warming was happening because of human activity. It criticised the scientists for their disorganisation and lack of transparency.

These COP meetings sometimes disappoint, most recently over the agreement of the Copenhagen Accord, in 2009. The proposal was not passed unanimously by all countries, nor did it contain any legally binding commitments for reducing carbon emissions.

However, this year is expected to be different. The world’s biggest companies and countries have all started to take emissions cutting seriously. Australia passed a controversial carbon tax bill and even China has increased its production of green technology.

Despite this good news, a recent report showed that current behaviour is not enough with greenhouse gas emissions at their greatest levels since pre-industrial times. Likewise, the International Energy Agency has warned that the door is closing in terms of climate change unless there is a bold change in policy direction soon.

Hopefully this means that COP17 will realise they have to make big decisions and talk about climate change seriously, otherwise the consequences will be disastrous.

To follow what happens at COP17 then read Blue & Green Tomorrow’s coverage. Four practical steps you can take yourself would be to speak to you financial adviser or let us find one for you through our online form, switch to renewable energy, make your Christmas as ethical as possible, and if you are going to Durban, look at one of our sustainable travel partners.