Dispatch from Poland: The Outline

Dispatch from Poland: The Outline

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Poznan 2008We arrived this past weekend in Poznan, Poland to attend the 14th annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also known as the 14th Conference of Parties. Official representatives – or “delegates” – from just about every country in the world are here for the next two weeks. In total, there are almost 11,000 registered participants, including many hundreds of NGO activists. While numerous activists are following negotiations on the inside, some are protesting in the streets outside of the convention center. Friends of the Earth works both inside monitoring the negotiations and outside to coordinate support for strong action.

The essential purpose of the negotiations is actually to set the stage for the road to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the world expects to see a renewed or revised global agreement to address the climate crisis. A major unanswered question looming large in the halls is what the Obama administration will do. The answer is unlikely to materialize before the end of this year’s negotiating sessions, as the Obama administration is not officially represented here, and the Bush delegation is calling the shots, although from a lame duck position. We’re hoping they’ll remain quiet (if not silent!) for the next two weeks.

Many negotiating tracks are occurring simultaneously – including finance for mitigation (greenhouse gas reductions) and adaptation (adjusting to the impacts of climate change); reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation; and research, development, demonstration, diffusion, and transfer of technology. So, when Poznan is no longer global center stage in two weeks, what pressing issues will remain unaddressed? Will Annex I countries (a group of industrialized nations most responsible for climate change) agree to greenhouse gas emission cuts of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020? Will the World Bank raise its ugly head and tout its so-called Climate Investment Funds? Will Annex 1 countries finally live up to their legal obligation to provide the substantial sums of money and technology to enable developing countries to address climate change? Will the dangerous inclusion of forests in carbon markets be derailed? How will climate justice be dealt with in the negotiations?

Also on everyone’s mind is how the global financial crisis will impact the climate negotiations. If the US government can come up with a $700 million bailout for Wall Street, then can the United States put at least as much on the table for the world’s climate emergency?

So many questions…Let’s see what kind of answers emerge from the UNFCCC negotiations over the two weeks!

In Poland, Friends of the Earth is actively coordinating with two coalitions pushing for action on climate change: Climate Justice Now! and the Climate Action Network. Meanwhile, the Friends of the Earth contingent itself, with some 140 folks officially registered for the negotiations, looks like a mini-United Nations. Kate and I are sharing a house with staff from Friends of the Earth Indonesia, Japan, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Australia, and Cameroon. Also here are Friends of the Earth Malaysia and Paraguay and many, many European members of Friends of the Earth.

We’ll keep you updated with information and photos of what’s going on over the next two weeks!