With Kyoto Set to Expire, All Eyes Turn to Climate Change Convention this Month

Kate Catlin, a native of the Seattle area, has been selected as a member of the United States Youth Delegation to the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa from Nov. 28-Dec. 9, 2011. A junior at Gonzaga University pursuing a B.S. in Economics, Kate is currently in Nicaragua interning with Soluciones Comunitarias.



The Kyoto Protocol has been called a essential by some and a failure by others. Nevertheless, as of 2012 it will be called “expired” by everyone as the term of the first period of emissions reductions agreement come to an end.

On November 28, 2011, the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the Climate Change Convention officially commences in Durban, South Africa to determine the future of the agreement. In attendance will be consequential heads of state, revered policy experts, international negotiators, hundreds of NGOs, and 14 United States Youth SustainUS Delegates – a group I am proud to be selected as a member for.

For those who are unfamiliar: The Kyoto Protocol was an international agreement  forged through the UN a decade ago which sought to reduce global climate change emissions an average of five percent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. Without emissions reductions, our heating planet will become much less livable for wildlife.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 20-30% of the world’s plant and animal species will be at increasingly high risk of extinction if global mean temperatures exceed a warming of 2 – 3°C. There will also be debilitating effects on humans as water sources dry up, natural disasters intensify, and island nations are lost under the rising ocean. The Cancun Agreements of 2010 included clear objectives for reducing human-generated greenhouse gas emissions over time to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 °C.

That makes the next year a critical turning point – experts agree that we need to start reducing NOW. Our international leaders must use this conference to forge a new strong and binding agreement with specifics on how we will mitigate, adapt for and fund the climate crisis.

As an “Agent of Change” with SustainUS, I will work with U.S. youth and young people from around the world in submitting policy recommendations, doing interviews with the media, and speaking with government delegates. Youth will bring our message into the negotiation halls: Bold and immediate action to ensure a livable world for generations of people and wildlife to come. I will also be keeping you updated with a first-hand account of the conference and the life of a delegate through this blog. Stay tuned!

Learn more about the conference and how to support bringing youth to climate agreements.