As I walked toward the entrance of the conference center this morning, I was greeted by a group of young people caroling, but this was no holiday carol. It was a pleading carol, one asking for our political leaders – those who currently hold all the power – to save the planet for them and their as yet unborn children. All were wearing “I [heart] KP” shirts, meaning I love the Kyoto Protocol. The youth are not alone. Nearly every NGO (non-governmental group) is asking our national leaders to sign on to a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
I passed through security and then worked my way through the maze of NGO booths on my way to the ICC center where negotiations are taking place. I caught up on my email and then settled into a seat in the press briefing room. A Russian delegation was giving a scientific briefing. In response to one reporter’s question about the scientific debate about causes, the Russian stated that there was no scientific uncertainty that humans are primarily responsible for increased warming in the 20th century. He went on to explain this in basic terms based on modeling studies.
Next up was the African Group. Press briefings are 30 minutes and last throughout the day in two main press briefing venues.
The African Group represents 54 African nations working as a team. The spokesperson today stated that they have two things working in their favor, “Justice and a large number of countries.” This group is currently led by Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles stated that the African group should focus on two issues:
- Pressing for a legally binding 2nd commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.
- Adopting the Green Climate Fund which is a $100 billion fund to support developing nations. This was agreed to at COP16 last year in Cancun, but it needs to be adopted at COP17.
Some comments from the African Group spokesperson:
“In order for us to keep Africa safe, we need to capture a number of countries…[who will agree to sign on to]…the Kyoto Protocol.”
He spoke of others who do not plan to stay with the Kyoto Protocol. “Japan has a long history of honor. They previously ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Now, it is ready to dishonor its history.”
Africa has been a minor contributor to the crisis we are currently facing. In fact, developing nations are doing more to address greenhouse gas emissions than are developed countries. It is more than a bit disconcerting here. Everyone gets it, including the U.S. We all understand the crisis. Every nation, every NGO, every business group, every civil and “non-civil” group represented here. We just can’t seem to agree on a path forward to save our planet.