In one month, the world might be ‘going Dutch’

By Jim Roth | Phillips Murrah P.C. | The Journal Record

[ NOVEMBER 16, 2009 – OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ] – According to Wikipedia, the origin of the phrase “going Dutch” likely comes from impressions of Dutch etiquette, described by the English as an insult during the Anglo-Dutch wars. In the Netherlands, it is not unusual to pay separately when going out as a group. The particular stereotype associated with this usage is the idea of Dutch people as ungenerous and selfish, however inaccurate.

Yet, in less than 30 days, and just to the east of the (Dutch) Netherlands in Danish Copenhagen, Denmark, nearly 8,000 people from an estimated 170 countries will converge on Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change Conference from Dec. 8 to 17. It will be a time for generous thinking and unselfish actions.

Attendees range from governmental representatives to journalists, to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The official host of the meeting is the government of Denmark, represented by Connie Hedegaard, Danish minister of climate and energy, and Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

This is set to be a very significant, historic meeting and it’s important that we understand what has occurred building up to this gathering.

The conference in Copenhagen marks the 15th conference of parties (COP15) in the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The most recent meeting in United Nations Climate Change Conferences was December of 2007 in Bali.

In Bali all parties agreed on the “Bali Action Plan,” and with that came the working conditions for the negotiations up to COP15 in Copenhagen. In light of this decision, increased focus on quick action was a significant part of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. The IPCC is the leading body for the assessment of climate change, established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of climate change and its potential environmental and socioeconomic consequences.

The Bali Action Plan and the sense of urgency leading up to Copenhagen were also partly a growing acknowledgement of the fact that 2009 represents more or less the last chance to achieve an agreement that can be ratified prior to the expiration of the world’s current Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

Developments in the world since the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in 1997 show that a new agreement is needed. China is building massive amounts of new coal plants, without any pollution controls, and the country has replaced the U.S. as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The Indian economy is growing significantly and requiring more and more sources of energy for its consumption. This is a reminder of the fact that certain fossil fuels do not merely pollute; they are also a source of energy whose reserves are constantly being reduced now by a worldwide appetite.

The U.N.’s climate-change conference history shows that countries can quickly move forward together, but also that they risk coming to a standstill because of internal disagreement. Nothing is sure at this point.

The hope of the Danish government is that the COP15 conference in Copenhagen will result in an ambitious global agreement including all the countries of the world. That would be truly historic, especially since many of the largest emitters (the U.S. and China included) have avoided approving these previous agreements.

Much has been speculated during the year leading up to this conference, including today’s conventional wisdom that major countries are farther apart than what would suggest a likely agreement. It’s important today, and even more important for the sake of all of the tomorrows, that at the conclusion of this critical conference, the world pulls together and develops an ambitious plan to safeguard this world for the next generations.

To go “Dutch” and go home without a solution is an insult to us all.

Jim Roth, a former Oklahoma corporation commissioner, is an attorney with Phillips Murrah P.C. in Oklahoma City, where his practice focuses on clean, green energy for Oklahoma.