Saturday, October 20, 2012

Welcome to the UN’s secret climate adaptation summit

Ed King in Responding to Climate Change: COP11 in Hyderabad is probably the biggest climate adaptation conference you have never heard of. Representatives from 192+ countries have travelled to India, drawing a crowd of 14,000 delegates to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) bi-annual summit.

But aside from a solitary New York Times journalist who arrived on Monday, media coverage outside India is fairly low-key. This is a pity, as the subjects up for discussion are fascinating, and directly relevant to the climate debate. In the past week geo-engineering, biofuels, REDD+, coastal protection strategies and increased environmental finance commitments have all been on the agenda.

For delegates here it is simple. The future of the oceans, forests and endangered species all depend on how high global temperatures will rise. At this morning’s press conference CBD communications officer David Ainsworth told me climate science informs and influences this process, although he stressed the CBD has no mandate to directly address carbon emissions.

That’s a matter for the UN climate talks in Doha later this year, but what I am hearing in Hyderabad is the world planning for a world 2°C+ above pre-industrial levels. There is little of the forced optimism I have witnessed in the climate arena, where a culture of diplomatic omerta obliges delegates to talk of a 1.5°C target. That’s not to say this isn’t worth aiming for or achievable, but few people I have spoken to believe it is realistic.

Instead, in the autumnal Indian heat, there is a brutal realism that what we call the environment is slowly disintegrating, and that global warming will speed up that process....

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