COP18: Why Texas Should Care About Climate Change


This is the first of a two-part series on greenhouse gases and the part Texas plays.

This week wraps up COP18, “The Convention on Climate Change” conference held in Doha, Qatar this year. COP18 gets its name from the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The conference sets a framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the world’s increasing carbon emissions. As we know, Texas, as the largest state in the 48 contiguous United States, also leads the nation in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Because Texas plays such a large part in the problem, we also have an opportunity to also play a large part in the solution.

COP18 Background
Countries from around the world joined an international treaty in 1992 called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with the goal of finding ways they could collectively limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change.

Realizing that proposed emissions reductions were inadequate by 1995, they adopted the Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing GHGs. Countries that ratified the treaty committed to an average of five percent reduction against 1990 levels over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012. Talks this year will determine the length of the next commitment period, which begins in 2013.

The overall objective of the COP18 conference is to achieve “… stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Over the years you may have heard about these talks in Kyoto, Durban and now Doha. You might also be somewhat aware of climate change and the dangers it presents. What you may not know however is that GHGs continue to climb and there is mounting concern that current efforts are simply not enough.

Just this week The New York Times covered a World Bank report finding that global emissions of carbon dioxide were at a record high last year and that, “emissions continue to grow so rapidly that an international goal of limiting the ultimate warming of the planet to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, established three years ago, is on the verge of becoming unattainable,” according to researchers with the Global Carbon Project.

Consequently, Texas, as good global citizens, must work to reduce the emissions contributing to climate change. After analyzing data from more than 6,700 industrial facilities releasing at least 25,000 tons of GHGs per year, the Environmental Protection Agency described our state’s emissions as “comparable to the emissions from burning 131 railcars of coal.”

The good news is that there is a plan. Stay tuned for the second blog in this series, which will review actions taken by EPA to help Texas curb carbon pollution.

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