CLIMATE CHANGE | How do you do Cancun? An Intro to the UN and Climate and What We're doing in Mexico

I am part of a group of students from the University of Minnesota who were selected to attend the United Nations conference on climate change in Cancun Mexico.  We left Minnesota at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. It is now Sunday night and we are sitting here in Cancun, waiting for COP16 to begin. We want our peers and the rest of the world to know the significance of this conference.  This conference is a gathering where individuals from around the world are coming together to negotiate specifics for the future climate policy of our world.  Along with the creation of the COP, the conferees have also developed the Kyoto Protocol, ratified in 2005, and the Copenhagen Accord in 2009.

First, it is important to reflect on what is involved with the UN process on climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established as a group in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit to consider the impacts and necessary reductions of global warming and to address the increasing temperatures of our oceans, waterways, and atmosphere.  The UNFCCC meets as a group at the Conference of the Parties (COP) annually.  This year the COP16 is meeting here in Cancun, and the UNFCCC is planning to negotiate an agreement on mitigating climate change (such as making policies for a cap and trade program to enforce emission reduction) and adapting to climate change (such as financial funding for technology transfer and capacity building in developing countries).

You're probably wondering by now why this is important to Minnesota.  All of these acronyms are foreign and these policy initiatives are at such a large scale they don't seem to apply to our state. However climate change and global warming affect us all.  Everyone in the entire world is and will be affected by human action toward the environment.  Humans emit carbon dioxide through different mechanisms, such as agriculture, deforestation, energy use, and transportation, just to name a few.  All people are capable of emitting CO2, and some generate more than others.  For example, the United States is the second highest emitter of CO2 in the world.  Once you understand the impact that a country and even a single person can have on the environment then it is easy to realize that policy established at the local, national, and international scale is hugely important.  Check back tomorrow to find out about what happened on the first day of the conference. 

The UNFCCC website:

Information on the Kyoto Protocol:

Information on the Copenhagen Accord:

Our sponsor from the University of Minnesota, the Institute on the Environment:


State Senator Ellen Anderson, Representative Kate Knuth and a delegation of University of Minnesota students are attending the COP 16 conference in Cancun, and students will share the experience with TC Daily Planet readers through blog post from the conference. To see all of the blog posts, click here.

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Genevieve Caldwell