Every year the United Nations holds international negotiations on climate change, called the Conference of the Parties, or COP. In 2013, COP 19 was held in Warsaw, Poland.
The 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) took place in Warsaw, Poland from November 11th to 23rd, 2013.
The Warsaw conference, which was also the venue for the 9th Session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP 9) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, followed COP 18 in Doha. In Doha, countries agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol to 2020 and intensify climate change work before 2020. COP 19 was seen as a vital step towards securing commitments and initiating processes agreed to in Doha in preparation for a new global climate change agreement at COP 21 in Paris in 2015.
Canada’s position going into the conference:
As in previous years, the Canadian federal government showed little to no commitment to the climate file in the lead-up to the conference. In 2011, Canada abandoned its Kyoto Protocol commitment to cut emissions 6% below 1990 levels by 2012. In doing so, Canada became the only country to withdraw from the legally binding international accord after having first signed it. More alarming still, federal data released in advance of COP 19 showed Canada was falling behind its much weaker Copenhagen commitment to cut emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (which is equivalent to 2.5% above 1990 levels). In contrast, the European Union is on track to achieve a 27% reduction (compared to 1990 levels) by 2020.
Just two months before the UN climate conference in Warsaw, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a component of its Fifth Assessment Report on climate science, focusing on the physical science basis for anthropogenic climate change. The report showed with extreme certainty that climate change is real, caused by human activity and requires urgent action. The message of the IPCC’s scientific story was reiterated by terrible human tragedy at the outset of the Warsaw conference, as the strongest storm ever recorded at landfall slammed into the Philippines. Super Typhoon Haiyan left thousands dead and many more injured and displaced, and underscored the urgency of climate action.
Results of the Warsaw conference:
Ultimately, the Warsaw climate discussions amounted to a missed opportunity with some small signs of hope. While the talks saw weakened climate pledges from a few countries and a failure to provide a clear plan to fairly divide the global effort of responding to climate change, there were positive signs in the establishment of an international mechanism for loss and damage, as well as on climate financing related to deforestation.
While Canada kept a low profile for most of the talks, some of its actions could not escape international attention. At the start of the talks, Canada was granted a ‘Fossil of Disbelief‘ for cheerleading ruinous Australian climate policies. Later, Canada was ranked worst climate performer in the developed world by CAN Europe and Germanwatch. As the talks wrapped up, Canada was awarded a ‘Lifetime Unachievement‘ Fossil award for its years of work undermining international climate negotiations. Still, the picture wasn’t all bad. CAN-Rac was happy to broadcast good news from Ontario for the province’s work on phasing out coal, and was encouraged by Quebec’s active promotion of carbon pricing on the world stage.
While the Warsaw talks were disheartening, it remains technically feasibile to keep the world from dangerous levels of warming by the end of this century. CAN-Rac remains committed to working inside and outside of future COPs to make sure this goal is met.