COP17: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Climate Change

What can we expect from this year’s climate conference?

With well more then 15,000 delegates likely to be in attendance (COP15 had more then 24,000!) we can expect a lot, at least on the discussion side of things.  At the risk of missing something, I will say only that two of the main issues on everyone’s mind will be: 1) the future of the Kyoto Protocol, and 2) the commitment of money to begin financing emissions reduction projects in developing countries.

Kyoto Protocol

Commitment period 1 of the Kyoto Protocol is set to expire in 2012 and 2nd commitment period – which will carry on, and in ways strengthen, the only legally binding international agreement currently in effect with committed GHG reductions targets – cannot begin without agreement at COP17.  Many nations already committed to the Protocol (and desperate for it to begin achieving its promise) will try to shepherd Phase 2 into existence.

Opposition to the continuance of the Kyoto Protocol is expected to come from countries, like the US, who no longer view the 20 year-old agreement’s divisions of the world (into industrialized, Annex 1, or developing, Annex 2, countries) as relevant in an era when an Annex 2 country (China) is now the top world emitter of greenhouse gases.

Green Climate Fund and REDD+ Financing

Something else to look out for is movement, forward or backward, on securing financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, a potential collective moneypot  (whose framework was developed at COP16) that was designed to provide much needed funding for emissions reduction projects in the developing world.  No one has committed to putting money in the pot, yet, but this will be a key point of discussion at COP17.

The Green Fund will, in theory, provide finance for projects like REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)  that seek to mitigate green house gas emissions.  But the Green Fund is still just an idea and REDD+ won’t see much movement without real, predictable funding soon.  As visiting Environmental Law scholar Nicholas Robinson put it at a panel discussion held at Yale’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) last week, without funding commitments at Durban REDD+ will languish for another year being “refined and tweaked” until someone knows what to do with it.  Why? Because “no one wants to launch a process with uncertainties on the investment-side.”  Look for discussions on REDD+ financing even, and particularly if, commitments to the Green Fund seem lacking.


Did we miss anything? Please write in with your thoughts on COP17 and things you think we should be looking out for.

Aaron Reuben

Aaron Reuben is an editor-at-large and the former editor-in-chief of Sage Magazine. He holds a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where he focused on governance of global marine resources. Aaron is a Get Out the Vote Director for Obama for America in western Pennsylvania. He is co-founder of the Brooklyn-based literary arts journal Armchair/Shotgun.

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