Earthwatch's Executive Vice-President, Nigel Winser, and Head of Climate Change Research, Dr Dan Bebber, represented Earthwatch at the recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen (UNFCCC) during December. It was the first time that Earthwatch has been represented at an UNFCCC meeting.
Earthwatch was among the many organisations calling for a global commitment to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions (read Earthwatch's position statement on Climate Change for COP15).
Earthwatch profiled its flagship program on climate change - the HSBC Climate Partnership, through which it is conducting a global research program into the impacts of climate change on forest ecosystems, and ClimateWatch, a monitoring program that involves the public in helping scientists understand the impacts of climate on Australia's plants and animals.
Nigel Winser said it was a "huge privilege" to represent Earthwatch at the convention to support the global call for carbon reduction and tropical forest protection with other observer NGOs.
He said: "Head of State after Head of State spoke passionately about the need to ‘seal the deal' - and their shared commitment to setting globally agreed targets to reduce emissions to ensure carbon levels are kept below 350 ppm. Sadly the discussions floundered in the second week, so the pressure remains to secure a 'fair and binding agreement' before or by the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 16) in Mexico next December."
Dr Bebber identified a number of opportunities for future Earthwatch research projects and partnerships at the convention.
He said: "I went to a large number of meetings, primarily those on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), where NGOs such as Global Witness, The Nature Conservancy and Conservation International discussed their REDD pilot projects in collaboration with developing country governments.
The key message was that capacity-building funding, both to develop technical expertise in forest monitoring and to strengthen governance and law enforcement, will be critical if REDD is to work.
Dr Bebber concluded: "The ultimate outcome of the meeting did, however, fall far short of what many had hoped for and time is running out if we are to prevent dangerous climate change, protect biodiversity and reduce tropical deforestation.
"Never was the need more pressing for us all as individuals, citizen scientists and non-governmental organisations to step up and play our part in a better future for our planet."