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Delegates from 195 nations gathered in Doha, Qatar earlier this week to kick off the 18th annual United Nations conference on climate change, also known as COP18 (Conference of the Parties). Held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), this event brings the world’s leaders and climate experts together to determine how society can address climate change. This year marks an especially significant year, as the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period is ending on December 31, 2012, and new commitments will be under discussion.
This week has seen considerable discussion on what impact COP18 will have on climate change. The New York Times states that this year could be a real opportunity to move beyond the contentious conferences of the past three years, firm up past commitments and agree on concrete actions for a new protocol by 2015. Following agreements at previous conferences on issues like reducing emissions of non-carbon-based climate-altering cases and helping poorer countries with adaptions to climate change, the article reports that this year’s COP18 delegates will be focused on developing plans to achieve those goals. Others, like the UK’s Business Green, state that while the opportunity for progress at this year’s summit certainly exists, there will be few actionable agreements among governments at Doha this year, and business will need to lead carbon reduction efforts. The growing role for the business community to address climate change is a theme that emerged at Rio+20 earlier this year, and it’s certainly an area in which Microsoft has made its own commitments.
All agree that the stakes are high. Since the Kyoto Protocol was signed 15 years ago, impacts from climate change have increased, CNN reports. The recently released World Bank report predicts a 4°C increase this century with resulting catastrophic impacts. In addition, the UN Environment Program report released last week says drastic action will be necessary to keep the global rise in temperature below 2°C, the point at which scientists believe major impacts will occur from climate change.
Here is a great infographic from Al Jazeera that describes the Kyoto Protocol commitments, emissions and positions of various countries participating in COP18. The Washington Post published a similar round-up of charts looking at changes in CO2 emissions since Kyoto was signed and what a new climate agreement needs to accomplish in order to stay below the 2°C line.
We will be watching the conversations at COP18 closely to see how governmental and business leaders are addressing climate change and how technology can play a leading role in reducing emissions.