In December, thousands of government leaders, policy-makers, scientists, and civil society representatives will gather in Copenhagen under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). There, it is hoped national governments will agree upon an ambitious and effective international response to the global threat of climate change.
The United Nations and Climate Change
The UNFCCC aims to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous human impacts on climate systems. At the December meeting in Copenhagen, the 192 national governments that are party to the UNFCCC will seek to agree upon a global path forward. Conservation International (CI) and others are working to support governments in their efforts to reach consensus within the UNFCCC, and to promote an agreement wherein Parties participating in the UNFCCC:
- commit to a global climate agreement that will prevent dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting impacts
- incentivize the role avoided deforestation and forest degradation can play in achieving climate mitigation goals
- include necessary measures to help developing countries and vulnerable communities adapt
- incorporate the impacts to and contributions of nature in amplified adaptation efforts
- ensure that indigenous peoples and local communities are represented in international negotiations and their rights are respected
Negotiations in preparation for the Copenhagen meeting are ongoing, and CI is working hard to develop tools and work with national governments to support and inform these discussions.
To achieve these goals, CI has committed to a major initiative designed to: advance the science of climate change solutions; identify options and possible incentives for reducing emissions and coping with climate impacts; support governments and communities in developing climate change policies and solutions; and promote international agreement to mitigate and adapt to climate change while incorporating the role of healthy ecosystems in the global solution.
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Accordingly, CI is working on many fronts, including directly with the U.S. Administration and Congress, with governments from around the world, through engagement in the United Nations process and in partnership with non-governmental organizations, indigenous peoples, and other stakeholders.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if carbon dioxide emissions continue at the same or increasing rates, average temperatures may rise by as much as four degrees Celsius by 2090 globally—and the Earth will experience catastrophic impacts.
Already we have witnessed sea level rise, ocean warming, coastal flooding, more intense storms, shrinking glaciers, drier soils and even infectious disease scares over the last decade. All have been linked to noticeable changes in our climate.
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These and other impacts of climate change threaten food and water security in some of the world’s poorest regions. As these incidents escalate, they will tax global humanitarian efforts, as well as threaten global security and diplomatic relations. Additionally, climate change is expected to become the main driver of species extinction by 2050.
Forests Can Contribute to Mitigation
Protecting the world’s forests can contribute to the achievement of global goals for emissions reductions while easing the transition to a global low-carbon economy for both the developed and the developing world. Research shows that we cannot prevent dangerous impacts from climate change if we don’t reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, no matter how aggressively mitigation measures are taken in other sectors.
IN DEPTH: Forest Carbon Projects.
Adapting to Climate Change
Healthy natural ecosystems allow people to adapt to a changing climate by providing food, clean water and income. These ecosystems – including forests, oceans, coastal zones and freshwater areas – provide a natural infrastructure which enables communities to more easily adapt to some of the worst impacts of a changing climate by performing vital tasks like buffering communities from storms, providing water sources during times of drought, and supplying alternative food sources and livelihoods when agricultural crops fail.
People who live and work in natural areas are likely to be more affected by the direct impacts of climate change and also by actions implemented to address the problem. These groups – including indigenous peoples and other local communities – need to be actively involved at the earliest stage possible in the decision-making process of any plans that may affect them.
CI is working within the UNFCCC process towards an international climate agreement that incorporates the incentives necessary to ensure that forests and other ecosystems can continue to remove and store carbon in order to contribute to climate mitigation, and help all communities – human and otherwise – adapt to a changing climate.
LEARN MORE: Discover what CI is doing to help stop climate change.