The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, concluded on Saturday, December 8, accomplishing somewhat less than “a complete transformation of the economic structure of the world,” a goal that conference chief Christiana Figueres had announced at the start of the global summit.
Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), presided over the Doha summit (also known in UN-speak as COP18, for the 18th Conference Of Parties) which was scheduled to run from November 26-December 8. The conference ran into overtime, ending on December 9, but still failing to deliver the “deliverables” demanded by Figueres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and their supportive lobby of “green” activist NGOs.
Chief among their demands was extending the Kyoto Protocol, a binding agreement on emissions reductions adopted in 1997 at the UNFCCC in Kyoto, Japan. However, only 37 of the 194 nations meeting at Doha signed on to an extension of Kyoto, and many of their commitments were tenuous at that. The United States never officially joined, thanks to refusal by the U.S. Senate to ratify the Kyoto agreement that Vice President Al Gore had helped negotiate and President Bill Clinton had signed. Canada has dropped out of Kyoto and Russia and Japan have refused to renew their commitments. India and China, which are responsible for the biggest increases in man-made "greenhouse gas" (GHG) emissions, are on pace to greatly expand those emissions. Together, India and China account for 76 percent of the 1,200 coal-fired power plants currently under construction or planned for construction globally.
In a December 4 address to the high-level segment of COP18, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke in apocalyptic terms of the “existential” threat to humanity and the planet posed by the “crisis” of climate change. He stated:
Let us be under no illusion. This is a crisis. A threat to us all. Our economies. Our security. And the well-being of our children and those who will come after.
The danger signs are all around. One third of the world’s population lives in countries with moderate to high water stress. Land degradation affects 1.5 billion people. Icecaps are showing unprecedented melting; permafrost is thawing; sea levels are rising. The abnormal is now the new normal.
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Photo of UN Climate Conference in Doha, Qatar: AP Images