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Global Response to a Global Problem

Climate change is a problem that affects all countries- rich and poor.  The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) held its 16th annual Conference of the Parties (COP16) in Cancún, Mexico from November 29 – December 10, 2010.  The ultimate goal of the Conference is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.  The Conference has nearly-universal membership with 20,000 delegates, NGO’s (green groups), business and media in attendance from 194 countries.

One of the goals of the Conference was to make a realistic step in taking action on climate change and build upon the Copenhagan Accord by taking steps to better implement it.  The Cancún Agreements made four major steps in achieving that objective:

1. Mitigation targets & actions: The Agreements provide emission mitigation targets and actions for approximately eighty countries (which importantly include all of the major economies) to reduce their emissions by 2020.

2. Green Climate Fund: A fund was proposed last year to help developing countries deal with implementing green policies to prevent climate change, and has a target of $100 billion annually by 2020.  The World Bank is the interim trustee of the Fund, and its oversight board consists of  representatives of the donor nations.

3. Tropical forest protection: One of the challenges facing the developing world is industrializing under environmental restrictions that developed nations did not.  Through the tropical forest protection program, wealthier countries help prevent deforestation in poorer countries by working through market mechanisms.

4. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): The CDM stimulates sustainable development while also reducing emissions in developing countries.  It also provides industrialized countries flexibility in how they meet their reduction targets.  The CDM allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn emission reduction credits, which can be traded, sold, and used by industrialized countries to meet part of their reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol.

The Conference made an extensive effort to reduce the carbon footprint of the event by doing everything from using renewable resources to planting over 10,000 trees and bushes in Cancún.  Although there is always more that needs to be done to address climate change, the Conference was a successful in creating new initiatives.

As 2011 approaches, we encourage you to think about your carbon footprint and what you can do to make a difference!