As I walked through the final border control stop, after asking the purpose of my trip and if I had any fruit or livestock, the U.S. customs officer asked me, “well, what did you learn this week?” Despite spending a week thinking about just that, this was difficult to answer. I don’t think I can say I learned anything concrete and positive for the future of climate change. Poland fired its environmental minister during the conference and the civil society comprised of environmental NGOs walked out of the conference. Most importantly few new commitments were affirmed by the party nations. In this sea of negative signals, it was tough to remain hopeful for the future. As a researcher, I had to step back and remember that even a lack of positive action is still a perfectly valid research result. This was especially true for my group’s topic of the Clean Development Mechanism. Just because current market and political trends do not indicate strong demand for CDM projects, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned. In fact, we will be sharing these lessons and results at the Undergraduate Research Symposium this spring!
Although we missed the last day of the conference I can still share some of the final results as interpreted by the UNFCCC and various commentators. The most discussed result related to the future action required to reduce emissions on a national basis. Going in to COP 19, the goal was to make a commitment on emissions targets by 2015 at COP 21 in Paris. Unfortunately this was watered down to reflect the interests of developing nations concerned about equity in emissions reductions. So, expectations for a promise in 2015 have been lowered and we will have to wait and see. On a more positive note, the “Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts” was created to formally begin to address the effects of climate change and sea level rise on vulnerable nations. REDD+, an initiative addressing forests and climate change, was enhanced this year to include a preservation payment mechanism. However both the REDD+ and loss and damage mechanisms fell short of what NGOs and the affected regions had hoped for.
It was interesting seeing some of the different ways Europeans approached recycling and sustainability compared to here:
Frappuccino were €6.40 at the Starbucks in the Brussels airport. Wow!