Hot Topics at COP 23

by Diana Dorman
Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder

The main body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets every year for the Conference of Parties (COP) to discuss and negotiate measures to combat climate change. The 23rd meeting of the COP took place Nov 6-17 in Bonn, Germany. The COP is where global agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement have been created and signed by countries around the world. Every COP has different challenges and themes as the effects of climate change become more apparent and circumstances change in individual countries. This COP was no different, and as a Master’s student in the Environmental Studies program I was able to observe COP 23 and several of the hot topics relevant this year.

Small Island States Front and Center

COP 23 was the first to be led by a small island develop state (SIDS), putting their issues regarding climate change front and center. Fiji’s Presidency at COP 23 reminded the world that for those in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia the effects of climate change are here and disrupting entire communities. I sat in on several panels that discussed full community relocation due to sea walls no longer stopping the relentless waves, or because water sources and farmland had been corrupted by sea water encroachment. Fiji called for the global community to notice the issues of the SIDS and take action before it is too late.

Gender Equality and Climate Change

Climate change impacts are expected to hit disadvantaged groups hardest, including women. Women tend to make less than men and have more restricted access to technology and financial resources to counter challenges caused by climate change. The Paris Agreement incorporates language requiring that equality and aiding disadvantaged groups is pursued moving forward to combat climate change. Acknowledging this issue and continuing these conversations on a global stage is an encouraging first step to progress the issue of gender equality.

The USA at COP 23

After being a leading force in 2015 on the Paris Agreement the United States’ position on climate change has taken a 180-degree turn. The election of President Trump swiftly brought in the US intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The United States did not have an official delegation or pavilion at COP 23, but the citizen and business community of the US did at in the U.S. Climate Action Center where “We are still in” was the tagline. Conversations around US actions seemed to express disappointment and frustration, but also resolve to trudge on and continue progress on climate change without America.

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