The politics of climate change: Time for a rebrand?
By Valerie Davis
EnviroMedia Social Marketing
Valerie Davis is CEO and co-founder of EnviroMedia Social Marketing and served as a business delegate at COP17 representing the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development. Her colleague and EnviroMedia co-founder Kevin Tuerff co-authored this post.
"We are in a world where nobody is in charge, and that is equally true in the United States."
That’s a quote we heard from Brian Dames, CEO of the South African electric utility giant Eskom, at this month's 17th Conference of the Parties, known as COP17, of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Whether you believe the U.S. is the dominant world power or not, during our two weeks at COP17, we witnessed similar sentiments from people around the world who believe our country created most of the problem, yet has been blocking solutions.
Penny Urquhart summed up the quandary well in the South Africa Sunday Times COP17 review we read as we flew out of Durban on December 11: "We still have a massive disconnect between the science, which tells us what we need to do to avoid more dangerous climate change, and the politics."
On the science side, as COP17 approached this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report citing a “high confidence that both maximum and minimum daily temperatures have increased on a global scale due to the increase of greenhouse gases.” Meanwhile, on the political side, the U.S., China and India were at loggerheads for the entire two-week conference over committing to the same emissions cuts.
Surprisingly, as the beleaguered negotiations ran into record-breaking overtime, the U.S. came out of COP17 a bit of the hero by suggesting the winning compromise language ("outcome with legal force" rather than "legally-binding") and signing on to the Durban Platform with all major emitters agreeing by 2015 to commit to putting the same cuts into force by 2020. As for the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed but never ratified by the U.S., a second phase will continue in 2013 for 27 nations that were originally part of the 1997 climate treaty.
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