UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres and COP19 President,
Polish Environment Minister Marcin Korolec (credit: COP19/CMP9)
The 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference , also known as the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19), is being held through November 22 in Warsaw, Poland. Delegates from more than 190 countries are gathering to continue laying out the foundations for a comprehensive climate pact to be reached in 2015 in Paris, after another preparatory COP in Lima, Peru, in 2014.

This year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference is presided over by Marcin Korolec, the Polish Minister of the Environment and President of the COP19 conference.

Underlining the challenges ahead of this year’s conference, Korolec said, "Changing climate is a global issue and a global problem, but also a great opportunity. One country cannot make a difference, but all together can. All countries are different, but it may be an advantage. Each party may bring its best for the good of all of us."

In her opening address to the Conference , Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), emphasized "sobering realities," such as the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever to have made landfall, and the fact that "We are the first human beings to ever breathe air with 400 parts per million CO2." Yet, according to Figueres, "We still have time and the means to limit warming to two degrees Celsius. […] The international process must push forward now to build the foundation for an ambitious universal climate agreement in 2015."

Christiana Figueres also noted that the scientific case for urgent action is ever more compelling. In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its Fifth Assessment’s Working Group I Report , stating the “extreme likely” human impact on the “unequivocal” warming since the mid-20th century. A week before the Conference, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) issued its Emissions Gap Report of 2013, warning that the chance to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius will “swiftly diminish” unless immediate action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Meanwhile, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported in its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin that the world’s atmospheric concentration of GHG reached a record high in 2012.

According to UNFCCC, COP19 is expected to reach preliminary agreements in several key areas:

  • Clarifying the climate finance and technology support that enables developing countries to achieve emission cuts and build resilience
  • Delivering an effective path towards the 2015 treaty (to come into effect in 2020)
  • Establishing a mechanism to prepare poor and vulnerable nations for the inevitable impacts of climate change
  • Encouraging ratification of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol

On November 14, 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) submitted their National Adaptation Programmes of Actions (NAPAs) to the UNFCCC secretariat, identifying their adaptation needs with respect to the immediate impacts of climate change and the projects required to meet those needs. The LDCs are also starting work on National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) to address their medium- and long-term adaptation needs. The plans, which will be supported by UNFCCC, the Global Environment Fund (GEF) and other U.N. agencies, will help make the poorest and most vulnerable countries more resilient to climate change.

On the sidelines of the COP19 meeting, a Business Forum held by the United Nations and the Polish government is calling for climate action by the corporate world. Momentum for Change, a U.N. platform that highlights climate change actions already achieving tangible results, will showcase the winners of its "Lighthouse Activities" label in the key categories of women's leadership, green growth financing, and urban poverty. And from November 19 to 22, more than 100 heads of state, government and ministers will be attending the High-level Ministerial Dialogues to advance engagement on climate finance.

Author: Mengpin Ge

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