COP23 Reflections

Earthkeeper Nelson Lee with Michael Bloomberg at COP23 in Bonn

COP23 is “the informal name for the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC was adopted in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit, which marked the beginning of the international community’s first concerted effort to confront the problem of climate change. Known also as the Rio Convention, the UNFCCC established a framework for action to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere. The UNFCCC entered into force in 1994, and nearly all of the world’s nations—a total of 195—have now signed on.

Each year the parties to the agreement convene to assess progress in implementing the convention and, more broadly, dealing with climate change. The first Conference of the Parties was held in Berlin in 1995. In 1997, the participants established the Kyoto Protocol, which included legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Since 2005 the Conferences have carried another name: CMP. This stands for Conference of the Parties Serving as the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, and so COP23 will also be known as CMP13.”  (

Nelson Lee, who sits on Earthkeeper’s steering committee, attended the conference this year in Bonn, Germany.  The following is his reflection on the experience.

“The host of the conference this year was Fiji – a group of islands in the South Pacific that have come to realize the reality of climate change the hard way – through impacts of storms and salt water intrusion. Its our greenhouse gases – over 80% of which arise from fossil fuel combustion that is mostly driving climate change. A recent comprehensive US study on climate change concluded: its real, its bad, its us – according to climate scientist and christian Katherine Hayhoe.

Of the thousands of people from nearly everywhere in the world, I don’t think you would find many who disagreed. Imagine that: crowds of people and everyone is doing something about climate change. A jolt of encouragement! The Only deniers were a delegation from the US promoting clean coal and that was disrupted by 200 protesters who lined up for a couple of hours for the privilege of jeering and singing some anti-coal songs. The US was represented by We Are Still In! – governors from 15 states, mayors from dozens of cities, and numerous businesses including Walmart, Mars, HP and many, many more.

Canada joined the UK to create a death to coal campaign (but with a sweeter name). Our own Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the Honorable George Heyman, told me that they formed an advisory committee of 40 experts and representatives from across BC society to make recommendations for addressing climate change and getting BC on track. They would revisit the climate leadership team’s recommendations that the former government ignored. Plans to reduce our target of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions of 40% by 2030 are possible from this new government.

Countering Trump’s make America great again rant, French President Macron was touting his own Make Our Planet Great Again campaign and invited the world to Paris beginning December 12, 2017 for a conference on that theme. He pledged that France and the rest of the EU would make sure there were no funding shortfalls for scientists due to US cutbacks. Where the US has pulled back, the rest of the world – especially so-called non-state actors (essentially any entity that isn’t a sovereign country) – have filled the gap created by Trump.

There was considerable talk about climate change as an opportunity to redistribute power and wealth. For example, solar energy is the cheapest from of energy and can easily be distributed. One of the outcomes of this will be power utilities losing their monopolies, which explains their passionate opposition. A new drive for transparency in the financial sector was discussed and seems to be just around the corner. Companies, banks, investment houses, and bond dealers will need to be clear about how climate change can increase or decrease their risk. Disclosing the share of fossil fuel investments is the first step towards divestment actions – another topic discussed at COP23.

For an Earthkeeper, I felt like a kid in a giant amusement park! Seminars, posters, videos, demonstrations and famous people – climate champions –  and all with a “can do” spirit from 8 AM-10 PM for two weeks straight! What an event a COP is!”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.