A recent article published in the Washington Post describing the slow pace of progress at the international climate change conference in Cancun (COP16) argues that the conference is unlikely to produce a binding international treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Many expected this going into the conference. However, as the article highlights, the COP 16 meetings have been important for other reasons, particularly with respect to hammering out the details for how to move forward on commitments made at last year's COP 15 in Copenhagen. Specifically, this year's conference will be important primarily with respect to the progress made on climate finance and other mechanisms designed to assist developing nations with their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. How? Read on.
At Copenhagen, leaders of developed nations pledged to implement a carbon fund of $100 billion per year by 2020 to support developing nations in their efforts to adapt to climate change. As this year's meetings have demonstrated, there are two concerns with this fund. First, many of the infrastructural mechanisms for ensuring that these pledges are delivered in a timely manner are not yet in place, raising questions over whether developed countries will be able to keep their commitments. Second, concerns over the additionality (funding provided over and beyond funds already committed to other sectors of development) of aid provided through the fund have been raised; clarifying this point will be a key requirement for moving forward on this question.
Another important point of negotiation is over the REDD+ Program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). This program is designed to use market and financial incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions attributable to deforestation in developing countries by providing benefits to forest communities as a tradeoff for emissions produced by global North industry. Many indigenous and women's groups oppose this cap and trade program, arguing that it will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a global level, but rather provide a mechanism allowing industries in global North countries to continue polluting.
Of course, these programs have an impact on human health. A carbon fund would assist developing countries in their efforts to build an energy sector that incorporates a strong focus on alternative and renewable energy, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions while helping to build their economies and prevent increased air pollution. At the same time, mitigation projects like REDD+, while imperfect, assist the most vulnerable communities in developing alternative economies and livelihoods that contribute to reducing deforestation- which is responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions every year. Reducing vulnerability and strengthening community resilience are key components in protecting population health in the face of climate change.
For more about the impacts of climate change impact on human health, please see the Center for Public Health and Climate Change website: www.climatehealthconnect.org, and join us today!