Campus News

The U.N. Climate Conference: A Bowdoin Student's Perspective

Story posted December 01, 2000

Over 200 college students, including Jeremy Arling ’01, attended last month’s United Nation’s climate conference on global warming at The Hague. Arling, an Environmental Studies/Biology major, will discuss his experience, impressions, and thoughts about the future of the world’s attempts to curb emissions, at 8 p.m., Monday, December 4, in the Main Lounge, Moulton Union. The talk, which will include a slide presentation, is free and open to the public. The event is sponsored by the student group Evergreens, and the Environmental Studies Department.

Arling will discuss what the conference accomplished (if anything), and what lies ahead for climate negotiations. Arling’s unique perspective also includes such insights into the conference as "Why was Bill Nye the Science Guy asleep on the floor? And was the U.N. out of its mind letting 225 student activists into international negotiations?"

The two-week conference brought together the leaders of the world to find mutually agreeable programs to cut emissions of greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. Negotiations among delegates broke down this year over differences on how this should be achieved. According to an Associated Press report, the differences seem almost insurmountable.

The conference’s mission was to work out ways to meet the goal set three years ago under the Kyoto Protocol, which mandated that industrialized countries reduce emissions by an average of 5.2 percent between 2008 and 2012. Thirty-eight countries were given specific targets. The U.S., for example, must reduce emissions by 7 percent.

The talks broke down over the U.S.’s insistence that countries be allowed to count the carbon dioxide absorbed by forests and farmlands toward their emission-reduction targets. Opposing delegates insisted this was an attempt to evade reduction requirements.

Chairman Jan Pronk "suspended" the conference rather than admit its failure. The conference will reconvene early next year.

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