To reach the scale of reductions needed and address many of the largest sources of emissions, the world’s governments must take immediate, bold and decisive action to create policies that address the causes of climate change.
Scientists and world leaders concur: governments must agree to dramatic and significant global action on climate change in order to avoid its most dire consequences.
So time is short. As Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, puts it: "This is the defining moment."
That's why The Nature Conservancy has been engaged significantly in conversations about government actions on climate change — especially international meetings convened by the United Nations.
During these meetings, Conservancy staff and scientists inform government representatives about key climate change issues and advocate for provisions we believe are essential in addressing climate change. These provisions include:
- Meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from all emitters and sources.
- Financial incentives to developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation.
- Recognition and financing for natural areas and vulnerable communities to adapt to the inevitable consequences of a changing climate.
Why We Work with Governments on Climate Change
Why is it important to work with governments? After all, we hear everyday about individual steps we can take to to make a difference regarding climate change — such as changing our light bulbs, using public transportation, lowering our thermostats and buying efficient appliances.
But with so much to be done in such a short period of time, these individual changes are sadly not enough. To reach the scale of reductions needed and address many of the largest sources of emissions, the world’s governments must take immediate, bold and decisive action to create policies that address the causes of climate change.
And then they must sustain that action. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that, by 2050, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85 percent below 2000 levels or face severe disruptions to the world’s environmental and economic security.
If these goals are not met, the science tells us our world will look very different in 2050 than it does today — with consequences such as:
- Loss of a quarter of Earth's plant and animal species;
- Global famine and drought that leaves 1.5 billion people across the globe without access to adequate drinking water; and
- Flooding that threatens our coasts and jeopardizes island communities and nations.
In many ways, though, the consequences of climate change are already apparent, from rapidly receding glaciers in China to increased temperatures in New York State and around the country. And climate change is affecting the Conservancy's mission to conserve the critical lands and waters that people and nature depend on.
That’s why we also work closely through our conservation programs on the ground to engage local and indigenous communities in creating solutions for climate change. Since many of these communities will be the most impacted, their support and involvement is vital to making progress against this threat.
And that’s why we bring our substantial expertise on climate change to the international stage.
What's Left to Do?
In many ways, world leaders have already laid down a good foundation for the next steps on climate change. But there's a difference between a good foundation and a strong building that can withstand the coming storm.
We've all heard about the Kyoto Protocol, which in 1997 set targets for most developed countries to reduce emissions by 2012.
However, Kyoto wasn’t adopted by the United States and doesn’t apply to fast-developing countries like China, India and Indonesia—which, along with the United States, are some of the world’s top emitters of greenhouse gases.
Since the first commitments made under Kyoto will expire in 2012 — and since we have a much better understanding now of the damaging impacts from climate change than we did in 1997 — scientists and governments have recognized the need for additional, stronger and broader targets to reach the level of global emissions reductions needed.
To achieve this, a new agreement must be put in place by 2009 so that countries will have time to ratify it and prepare for it to go into effect in 2012. Work on this critically important agreement has already begun. The UN climate negotiations in Bali, Indonesia in 2007 provided a road map that paves the way for an agreement at the end of next year. This road has taken us through Poznan, Bonn, Bangkok and Barcelona and then brings us to Copenhagen in December when world leaders are set to meet to commit to a new global solution for climate change.
The Conservancy plays an important role in international meetings, from helping launch the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility in Bali in 2007 to our participation in the California Governors' Climate Summit in 2007 and again in 2009. And we are cautiously optimistic that governments will make a historic decision in Copenhagen.
The Nature Conservancy has been and will continue to serve as educator and advocate at these important international events. We participate, based on the knowledge that our future and the future of our children will be better for it.