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Dec. 4, 2007

Columbia Experts Hit the Ground at UN Climate Meeting in Indonesia

From Dec. 3 to 14, world leaders and a range of stakeholders from more than 190 countries will gather to discuss the next steps for tackling what could be the greatest threat to the survival of the planet: climate change. The international meeting held in Bali, Indonesia, brings together countries that have agreed to the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. The main goal of the conference is for countries to reach a consensus on new targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to decision makers, nearly 10,000 representatives from academia, nongovernmental organizations, advocacy groups and the media are expected to attend this year’s international meeting in Bali. Among them are a number of scientists and experts from Columbia University, who are participating in this global event hoping to forge connections that will lead to collaboration in the fight against climate change.

Columbia Undergrad Selected
as Student Delegate to
Attend UN Climate Change
Conference in Indonesia

Hanna Lee

Columbia student Hannah Lee (SEAS ’09) will be attending the climate change meeting as a U.S. delegate for the youth advocacy group, SustainUS. Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, Lee will attend sessions, present a policy paper and blog about her activities on the youth climate blog, ItsGettingHotInHere.org, and for UNDispatch.com.

According to the United Nations, the two-week conference—the thirteenth UNFCC conference and the third meeting of the 176 signatories to the Kyoto Protocol—is expected to lead to negotiations on measures for fighting climate change beyond the year 2012, when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol expires. Both the Framework and the Kyoto Protocol are international agreements that lay out deadlines and goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Columbia’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) is well represented in Bali with six experts on the ground. The IRI is a world leader in the understanding and application of climate forecasts for helping society better adapt to climate change and is working with several Asian countries to help them better plan for climate shocks such as drought and floods.

"This [event] is especially significant in light of this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) findings, which signal the now urgent need to come to grips with managing climatic risks globally," says IRI Director-General Steve Zebiak. "The IRI will be [in Bali] to share our experience in helping countries become more resilient to climate changes, and to highlight the importance of this agenda to sustainable development."

At the Bali conference, the IRI will be hosting an event that focuses on the challenges decision makers face in managing climate risk and its impact on various sectors, including water and agriculture, and showcases the efforts of two countries, Indonesia and the Philippines, that are making important strides on this issue. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC and 2007 Nobel Prize winner, Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, as well as experts from partner organizations and government agencies, are slated to speak at this event.

“For us and for other organizations, this meeting is about seeing real changes in policy and practice on the ground,” said Haresh Bhojwani, international development officer for the IRI. “Here in Bali, you have both policy makers and practitioners working to understand and tackle climate change—it’s a seminal event for anyone working on this issue.” 

IRI will also be co-hosting events with the African Development Bank and other partners. A highlight of the Bali conference for the IRI is the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the government of Indonesia to collaborate on strategies that improve agricultural risk management in the country.

“This global event is not only about showcasing what is being done to help societies adapt to climate risks,” said Bhojwani, “it is about laying foundations for future partnerships that can result in better coordination among stakeholders.”

Also attending the Bali conference are experts from the Center for International Earth Science Information Network, housed at Columbia’s Lamont campus, and the Global Roundtable on Climate Change (GROCC), an initiative of the Earth Institute to engage businesses on climate change issues. David Downie, director of GROCC, will speak at two events hosted by European climate/business initiatives, which will highlight the importance of business for achieving agreement on a new climate treaty by 2009.

Story by Clare Oh.