Climatico’s Jennifer Helgeson gives her impressions and conclusions from this week’s Climate Congress

windmill out front of the Bella Centre, Copenhagen.The science that will direct the UN Climate Change Conference to be hosted by the Danish Government in December 2009 was discussed by more than 2500 delegates from almost 80 countries from 10-12 March 2009 in at the Copenhagen Climate Congress. The 3 days were jam-packed with 58 parallel focused discussion sessions, hundreds of poster presentations, and a series of plenary meetings lead by some of the most well known players in the field of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Congress’ Scientific Writing Team has identified six key messages, which were publicly presented to the Danish Prime Minister, Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The “Big 6” are presented in short below.

The output of the conference is now in preparation, and will be published by Cambridge University Press as a point of reference for the academic community. A report of the Congress is to be prepared by June 2009 and handed over to the key decision makers before the December COP meeting.

And here are the “Big 6” Key Messages of the Congress:

1. Climatic Trends: Things are not looking so good. The worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized. The risk of irreversible climatic shifts are increasing…

2. Social Disruption: Recent observational studies report that societies are vulnerable to even very modest levels of climatic change. Poor nations / communities are particularly at risk…

3. Long-term Strategy: we need stringent and binding targets now and long into the future. Due to the issue of stocks of carbon dioxide, delay in initiating effective mitigation significantly increases long-term social and economic costs for mitigation and adaptation.

4. Equity Dimensions: Effective, well-funded adaptation safety nets are required for those most vulnerable to climate change effects. A common, but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.

5. Inaction is Inexcusable: A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalization of ecosystem services.

6. Meeting the Challenge: we have to seize critical opportunities and engage society in the transition to norms and practice that foster sustainability as a “way of life.”

I was truly impressed by the consideration the Congress took for input from top researchers in the science of climate change (e.g. physics) but also the social sciences and even philosophy. For me there were three messages that harkened throughout discussions by all keynote speakers, who ranged from Dr. Rajendra Pachuri, Chairman of the IPCC to Lord Nicolas Stern, the lead author of the 2006 groundbreaking Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change. Firstly, the decisions at the COP 15 made by politicians must be guided completely by the science findings (this was hardly agreed to by PM Rasmussen). Secondly, there was a huge push for the fact that the current economic downturn is actually a golden opportunity to redefine our world in a low carbon manner. Finally, just about every speaker and session touched on the question of equity in addressing climate change, from discussions of new brands of climate change insurance to roles of forests and agriculture.

Though there were some negative reports, like the fact that we are indeed on the path to realizing the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories, there was a true sense of hope and optimism about what December negotiations may bring.

After all, how couldn’t we feel hopeful leaving the Bella Center, windmill generated energy right out front of the building? But then again, when it started to sleet, an awful lot of Congress contributors turned to taxis rather than reduced carbon public transport…

And with my hat as Climatico’s France Analyst on:  French researchers were well represented at the Congress, talking on how to synchronize world carbon markets to philosopher views of climate change and why the public may avoid realizing the real magnitude of danger.

Also on the docket for France: How may joining NATO affect climate issues, if at all? And how did the recent “International Standards to Promote Energy Efficiency and Reduce Carbon Emissions” workshop held in the OECD Conference Centre, Paris go? More soon…


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