COP23: What To Expect

Like a lego set with pieces missing, annual United Nations climate conferences and meetings too often seem like projects that will never be completed with their purposes and goals beyond our imaginations. In fact, COP23 (The 23rd Conference of the Parties) may not even be in your lexicon, never mind on your radar. If you live in the United States –  United Nations negotiations on climate change seem to be sliding ever further away from the limelight, even as the need to have climate solutions front and center has never been more important.

For our Climate Mamas and Papas who ARE wondering what is happening in Bonn, Germany, where countries from around the world (including the USA) are attending the 23rd Conference of the Parties from November 6-17th,  this post is a quick summary of what is on the table, as well as a reminder of where we need to go.

United Nations

Each COP has a rotating presidency and COP23 is chaired by the Prime Minister of Fiji, a small island developing state on the front lines of climate change. As background and according to COP23 President’s website: “COP23 is the informal name for the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which marked the beginning of the international community’s first concerted effort to confront the problem of climate change. Known also as the Rio Convention, the UNFCCC established a framework for action to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, and nearly all of the world’s nations—a total of 195—have now signed on. Each year the parties to the agreement convene to assess progress in implementing the convention and, more broadly, dealing with climate change. The first Conference of the Parties was held in Berlin in 1995. In 1997, the participants established the Kyoto Protocol, which included legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

Making a long story short, all agreements made under the Kyoto Protocol end in 2020. With the adoption of the Paris Climate Accords in 2015, a new set of agreements were put in place, taking over and superseding those made in Kyoto.

The “beauty” and the “curse” of the Paris Accord, is that in large part to have the Unites States sign on to a non-binding agreement, the best solutions seemed to have each country developed their own plan for reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions. These plans are to be updated and tightened every 5 years, with the goal of becoming fossil free by the mid to late 2000’s and to keep world temperatures from rising 2 degrees, with the aspirational goal of 1.5 degrees. The COP meetings are the opportunity to remind other countries about promises made, how these promises are being turned into reality, and how and why countries much help one another as we all live climate change.

This year, as we see it, all eyes are on 3 things:

  1. The US delegation under Trump (with the US now the ONLY country that says it is pulling out of the Paris Accords. The “Other” US delegation, made up of states, companies and Civil Society, declaring #WEARESTILLIN.
  2. A legal clarification and recognition of climate refugees as a refugee status
  3. What money and “assistance in kind” is there to help those countries that are experiencing “loss and damage” through no fault of their own, as a result of the climate crisis.

We will have a “round up” of what happened in Bonn, in early December. In the meantime, below is a post and video from late 2015,  reminding us about the reality and the long road ahead, but also to hold on and ensure that the “glimmers” of hope for  cohesive world action on climate change through the Paris Accord do grow stronger.  Paris and it’s follow up have shown us that together the world is committed to addressing the climate crisis, that we are beyond where one leader can derail what is happening, even if that leader is the President of the USA, and that hope for a future for our children and for us lives and is in our hands….


IMG_4021After spending 13 years working at the United Nations where I followed global discussions on a range of issues, including climate change…I am a realist. The United Nations can only accomplish so much. The rest as they say…“Is up to us.” We will share our ClimateMama “post COP21 wrap up” early next week, but we wanted to leave you on this last official day of the negotiations with an inspiring reminder of why we cannot and must not give up. Last year at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, I had the honor of interviewing Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, the young mother from the Marshall Islands who delivered the opening address at the Summit.

Kathy passionately and decisively spoke to our world leaders, sharing a promise she delivered to her 7 month old daughter, Matafele Peinem, who was with her in the General Assembly Hall. Kathy was calm but incredibly forceful when she said that: “we all deserve to do more than just survive, we deserve to thrive.” Kathy made it all seem simple; at the end of the day, would we not all – world leaders included – do whatever it takes to ensure that our children will not only survive, but thrive? Sadly and as we know, it is more complicated than it should be, and we still have a long way to go…even knowing what we know..

Each of us CAN and MUST make a difference. So as we all take stock of what did, and did not get accomplished in Paris take some time this weekend to enjoy your family and to be in nature; cherishing what we have and also recognizing what is at risk. As well, invite your children to join you and listen to Kathy’s message to her daughter and our world leaders..You will be inspired and fortified….

With hope, gratitude and in solidarity,

Climate Mama

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