News came in from the U.N. Barcelona climate talks last week that African countries had walked out on the negotiations. They were protesting developed countries’ unwillingness to set firm carbon reduction commitments, saying the talks could not continue without rich nations assuming their responsibilities. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that developed countries must cut emissions by 25-40% by 2020 from 1990 levels in order to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. Norway is the only country that has made a 40% commitment.
The boycott of the negotiations by African countries lasted one day and made a powerful statement about the status of the talks. Rich countries are trying to maneuver around the changes they must make for a successful agreement, including setting binding emissions targets and creating an international compliance mechanism necessary to measure emissions levels. Meanwhile, developing countries are already experiencing the affects of climate change in the form of extreme weather and ecological change.
Developed countries, comprising only 20% of the world’s population, have been the significant contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions that are hurting developing nations first and worst. We have also enjoyed economic prosperity that gives us greater capacity to mitigate climate change. Because of these factors, we have tremendous responsibility as global citizens to lead in taking bold action on climate change and assisting other countries as they adapt.
Meanwhile, legislation on climate change here at home in the United States has become increasingly politicized. Republican members of the Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted the scheduled mark-up of the climate change bill after having already received an extension to amend the bill. Closer to home, nearly all Republican gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota reject global warming science and the human impact on climate. Political stances such as these seem so out of place in the context of international climate talks that have been taking place for more than a decade. In particular, the African boycott of the Barcelona negotiations highlights the absurdity of the energy bill boycott that took place in the United States.
Expedition Copenhagen delegates recognize that developed countries including our own will be tempted to drag their feet when it comes to commitments in Copenhagen. We recognize that it is our role to emphasize the importance of the outcomes of this conference to our own futures. It is also important to us that we join together with other youth from developed and developing nations in a global movement to bring sense to these negotiations and demand leadership from developed countries. By assuring there are international youth viewpoints at these negotiations, we have a better likelihood of achieving a bold, just, and binding treaty. That is why the Will Steger Foundation has partnered with other North American organizations to sponsor the attendance of a robust youth delegation from Latin America. We will be fundraising for these youth as well as for ourselves. Please consider donating to this cause.