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The Paris Agreement – A Fresh Start?

ucftpdr15 December 2015

(c) IstockPhoto

(c) IstockPhoto

On the 12th December 2015, after (just over) two weeks of intensive negotiations between nearly 200 nations, COP21 of the UNFCCC adopted the Paris Agreement – a new global commitment to address climate change. All parties were keen to avoid a repeat of the disastrous effort to secure such a global agreement in Copenhagen in 2009, where deep divisions and entrenched positions between counties and negotiating blocs prevented any substantive progress towards a common global agreement. (more…)

The Paris Agreement lacks focus on water

zcfad2115 December 2015

(c) SXCThe world is celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, but the role of water under a changing climate is still sidelined: Time to ride the momentum.

One of the biggest highlights for the water community of 2015 was the adoption of a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6) on 25th September. The celebrations were high but not long after did the water community’s hangover commence: the first draft negotiating text for the 21st United Nations Conference of Parties (COP21) was released late October, 2015 and made no explicit mention to water resources in the upcoming climate change negotiations. As COP21 got underway, several revised versions of the proposed Paris Agreement were made available throughout the two-week negotiation marathon, but all failed to make a single reference to water. Not surprisingly, the final adopted text was no different. (more…)

Climate Change – The Lima Hangover

ucftmgr13 January 2015

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

sustainable world (c) istockphoto

The 20th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate change opened in Lima on 1st December and finally closed at 1.30am on the morning of Sunday 15th.  As ever the case with complex global negotiations, the late finalisation reflected hard-fought struggles to reach agreement – in this case, establishing the final roadmap for the Paris COP21 in December 2015 on which hinge hopes for an effective new global treaty on tackling climate change.

Most commentators greeted the Lima outcome positively, somewhere on the spectrum between relief and enthusiasm. Some of those usually inclined to scepticism about international negotiations were marked in their praise. It may have helped that the organisation was smooth (no mean feat with more than 10,000 people attending), the venue unusually convenient for negotiators and observers alike, and the weather fine. A good atmosphere helps. Lima was marked above all by a sense of optimism, energy and – dare I say it – inclusiveness, which has been largely lacking ever since the collapse of the Copenhagen summit in 2009. (more…)

All for one and one for all – sustainability, resources and stewardship of planet Earth

Katherine E Welch17 November 2014

(c) IstockPhoto

(c) IstockPhoto

“The solutions are in our hands if only we could recognise them”, one of the key remarks from the closing panel discussion at this year’s BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities/UCL Grand Challenges Symposium hosted by the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources on Nov 6-7.

This is, I think, a sentiment shared by most, and certainly by those attending this year’s conference, which ran with the theme ‘Stewardship for Planet Earth’. Over the two days of the event we heard contributions from academics, policy makers and practitioners, both presenting and in the audience, and held rousing discussions about our individual and shared responsibilities for how, and to what extent, we exploit our natural resources. (more…)

Rio+20: “the future we want” or “old shoes in a new box”?

Chiara Armeni23 May 2012

The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro, brought sustainable development to the forefront of the international policy agenda. A set of key principles (Rio Declaration on Environment and Development), a blue print for action to implement sustainability (Agenda 21) and three multilateral environmental agreements (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on Combat of Desertification) represent the main outcomes of that conference and have informed the direction of international environmental and climate change law and governance since. Rio also led to the establishment of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) to monitor progress on the agreed goals.

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Feeling the squeeze

Katherine E Welch23 April 2012

credit: Planet Under Pressure/Elsevier

The consensus of the academic community gathered at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London at the end of March seemed to be that the pressure is indeed on, and change is needed – now.

The conference, pegged as the largest gathering of global experts on environmental and social issues in the lead up to Rio+20, aimed to send a clear message to those gathering in Brazil in June about the challenges the planet now faces. Indeed, the conference organisers, in a declaration on the state of the planet, said that safeguarding the Earth’s natural processes to ensure the wellbeing of civilisation was the defining challenge of our time.

Climate change, the global financial crisis and food, water and energy insecurity threaten civilisation as we know it – Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General

The sense of urgency from speakers was palpable, and their warnings stark. Population growth, increasing urbanisation and ever-greater resource demand are placing increasingly unsustainable pressures on the natural system, with many systems now believed to be at thresholds or “tipping points” beyond which changes can not be reversed.

(more…)