Filed by Erika Engelhaupt
About 20,000 delegates and observers from nearly 200 nations are flocking to the resort island of Bali, Indonesia, for two weeks of intense meetings and negotiations on climate change. Their goal: create a roadmap for how the world’s nations will work together to tackle global warming. No problem, right?
UN meetings tackle some of the biggest dilemmas facing those who hope to keep warming in check—including how to divvy up responsibility for cutting emissions among rich nations and poor. This time around, delegates hope to hash out plans to extend or replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012. Kyoto’s goals were modest—cutting about 5% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 as compared to 1990. Nations have to decide where to go from there. This meeting won’t set targets for countries, but delegates will start talking about whether the future holds a “son of Kyoto” or some new animal entirely.
Bali hosts the 13th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is a pledge signed by most nations (including the U.S.) to stabilize greenhouse gases at levels “that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Running in parallel is the 3rd Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. has not ratified the protocol and thus is not a party). In the alphabet soup of UN parlance, that makes this officially COP-13 (Conference of the Parties) and MOP-3 (Meeting of the Parties).
The run-up to Bali has seen calls for stronger international agreements, including the G-8 Summit in Germany, a high-level UN meeting convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and the Major Economies Meeting hosted by the U.S. With a melting Arctic and greenhouse gas levels rising faster than expected, the eyes of the world are focused on this meeting perhaps more closely than on any before.
Meanwhile, I’m on my own road to Bali. It’s a long one—the 2-day journey puts me in Bali on Monday night. And I’ll rack up an impressive carbon footprint of my own, flying from D.C. to Chicago to Tokyo to Bali. (More on my carbon guilt later.)
Check back soon for timely dispatches from the UN climate negotiations, starting Tuesday. I’ll give you a sneak peek into the meeting as it unfolds, with some simple primers along the way to help sort out what it all means.