01/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Poznan Climate Change Conference: All You Need To Know

Poznan, Poland hosted the 2008 United Nations Climate Conference, which began on December 1 and ends today. Over 10,000 people from 187 countries gathered for talks on a new treaty to combat global warming.

Arthur Max reported for AP on one of the most striking breakthroughs achieved: the inclusion of forest conservation in a new climate change agreement.

This guarantees a voice for native peoples who live in forests and rewarding India and China for replanting depleted lands.

Environmentalists said the compromise text, agreed in a committee at the U.N. climate talks, was an important step that cleared the way to discuss politically sensitive questions on how countries will be compensated for protecting their woodlands.

Though activists said they were disappointed that four countries, including the United States, deleted any specific reference to the "rights" of indigenous people, the agreement recognizes, "the full and effective participation" of local communities.

Unfortunately, Max points out, the draft did not address the question of biodiversity, and does not prevent countries from uprooting natural forests - and endangered species - to plant crops.

A deal on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, known as REDD, has been tied up in a technical committee since the conference opened Dec. 1, frustrating environmentalists who said some countries were backtracking on understandings reached four months ago at the last climate change conference in Ghana.

Another issue discussed at Poznan was what to do about farm emissions. Elisabeth Rosenthal reported in The New York Times that United Nations climate officials cited agriculture and transportation the two most "problematic" sectors.

"It's an area that's been largely overlooked," said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He says people should eat less meat to control their carbon footprints. "We haven't come to grips with agricultural emissions."

Indeed, scientists are still trying to define the practical, low-carbon version of a slab of bacon or a hamburger. Every step of producing meat creates emissions. Flatus and manure from animals contain not only methane, but also nitrous oxide, an even more potent warming agent. And meat requires energy for refrigeration as it moves from farm to market to home.

Swiss adventurer Louis Palmer drove a solar-powered car 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers) around the globe, ending his journey at the U.N. climate conference in Poznan. As Vanessa Gera of the Associate Press reported,

Palmer rolled into the climate conference in his solar car Thursday, a man with a mission: To prove that the world can continue its love affair with the car without burning any polluting fossil fuels and still enjoy a smooth ride.

Palmer, a teacher on leave from his job, spent 17 months driving his own creation _ a fully solar-powered car built with the help of Swiss scientists _ through 38 countries. The two-seater travels up to 55 mph (90 kph) and covers 185 miles (300 kilometers) on a fully charged battery.

Palmer says there's no reason why car companies couldn't make a much better version of his solar-powered car if they set their mind to it.

"These new technologies are ready," he said. "It's ecological, it's economical, it is absolutely reliable. We can stop global warning."


At the outset of the Poznan conference, Gier Moulson reported for the Associated Press that:

The outgoing U.S. delegation appointed by President George W. Bush said it would oppose specific targets for reducing global carbon emissions. That prompted delegates of the 190 countries at the conference to look forward to a more climate-friendly administration under President-elect Barack Obama.

To the dissapoinment of Poznan conference organizers and attendees, however, President-elect Obama declined to attend the gathering. The president-elect insisted that the US has but one president at a time, suggesting that he did not feel his presence at the conference would be appropriate. Gillian Caldwell of the Huffington Post, though, suggests that his presence might have been constructive:

It's clear that the world is waiting for the U.S. to lead on climate change. We're proud that President-elect Barack Obama has promised bold leadership on climate change and has already announced that he agrees with the world's leading scientists that the U.S. must cut our polluting carbon emissions at least 80% by 2050. That's good news. And yet, yesterday China and India called the President-elect's goals "inadequate" to fight global warming.

The Huffington Post's Ben Carmichael proposes that the US host a UN climate summit as a means of showing leadership of climate change.