Calls for action dominate last days of UN climate talks
“We need to ensure that the world is aware of the consequences of climate change, and the need for immediate action”
Indigenous peoples, including Inuit from around the circumpolar world, marched Dec. 8 through the streets of Cancun, Mexico, where the latest round of United Nations climate talks are still underway.
Indigenous peoples wanted to draw attention to their lack of official representation at the talks, although they’re expected to feel the impact of extreme temperature rises — which could go as high as 15 C in some Arctic regions.
The 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP16 for short, which started Nov. 29 and is scheduled to wrap up Dec. 10, takes place as scientists say melting glaciers and ice sheets are releasing more cancer-causing pollutants into the air and oceans.
COP16 is a follow-up to last year’s climate conference in Copenhagen where world leaders, who failed to reach a legally binding agreement to curb climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, only produced a last-minute accord.
This time most of the world’s leaders stayed home.
But to make sure that the voice and interests of Nunavummiut are heard at COP16, Daniel Shewchuk, Nunavut’s minister of environment, and a few other Nunavut officials, travelled to Cancun this week.
“The impacts of climate change are becoming increasingly visible here in Nunavut, which makes our presence at COP16 very important. We need to ensure that the world is aware of the consequences of climate change, and the need for immediate action,” said Shewchuk in a Dec. 6 GN news release.
Infrastructure damages due to thawing permafrost and altered access to wildlife from changing ice and weather patterns are just two examples of the impacts which are already being experienced in Nunavut — and that Shewchuk said he planned to raise at COP16.
But observers aren’t expecting much to come out of the meeting.
On Dec. 7, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged delegates to compromise, saying he is deeply concerned that the meeting’s efforts “so far have been insufficient.”
“Nature will not wait while we negotiate… Science warns that the window of opportunity to prevent uncontrolled climate change will soon close,” he said.
Greenland’s premier Kuupik Kleist, also in Cancun, said it’s unlikely COP16 will see world leaders create a new, binding climate agreement.
“But my expectation is that the world community will hopefully be able to take significant steps during COP16,” Kleist said in the newspaper Sermitsiaq. “Namely that you should take stock of developing countries and especially respect their historic right to development. I think it’s the right way to go — that we must do something about the uneven distribution of global resources if you want a new, binding climate agreement.”
With only a few days left to go at COP16, rich and poor nations remain split on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Many poorer, developing states refuse to support a deal unless the countries that signed on to Kyoto Protocol agree to a second commitment period to cut greenhouse gas emissions after 2012.
In the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in Japan in 1997, saw industrialized, richer nations promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 per cent from their 1990 levels by 2012.
However, the United States refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol.
And Canada now says it wants to see a new agreement with binding targets on all countries— rich and poor.
Last year in Copenhagen, Canada made the same commitment as the U.S. to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.
But the UN would like to see emissions drop by 50 per cent by 2050 to keep global temperatures from rising more than an average of two degrees.