Durban deal prevents next decade emission chaos

Durban deal prevents next decade emission chaos

Published: 11 December, 2011, 15:47

South African Foreign Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (R) receives a standing ovation from Congress of Parties Executive Director Christiana Figueres and hundreds of delegates at the Climate Change Conference in Durban on December 11, 2011 (AFP Photo / RAJESH JANTILAL)

Global warming,
Global economy

A UN emissions control marathon has finally brought hope to avoid climatic Wild West worldwide. The conference in South African Durban has approved a deal to fill in a decade-long gap between the expiring Kyoto Protocol and a future climate accord.

­Two weeks of wrangling among the 194 nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change resulted in approving to start shaping the single pact to unite all major greenhouse gas emitters.

The approval of the new accord, seen as the main tool to fight climate change, is deemed by 2015. The conference expects its participants to ratify the pact by 2020 as the latest. After that the signees will be legally bound to carry out any pledges they make.

This would leave a huge loop between the new pact and the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gases emission control, which was signed back in 1997 and expires in 2012. Durban gathering has extended Kyoto bindings for at least five more years.

­The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, is an international treaty under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The treaty aims at fighting global warming. This primarily means reduction – obligatory for industrial countries and voluntary for developing countries – of greenhouse gases emission. Reductions for industrialized countries amount to an average of 5 per cent against 1990 levels in 2008-2012. The gases include carbon dioxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbon group and some others. As of September 2011, 191 countries have signed and ratified the protocol. The USA, though a signatory to the protocol, does not intend to ratify it.

The extension of the Kyoto Protocol came as a big relief to many ecologists and developing nations which suffer most from the climate change.

If the Kyoto Protocol were not extended and died in Durban, we would be doomed to live next 10 years without legally binding [international] agreement limiting atmosphere emissions worldwide. The second stage of the Kyoto Protocol should be considered a big win of ecologists,” Vladimir Slivyak, of Ecodefence international ecology group, told RT speaking from the meeting.

The Durban Climate Conference also resulted in creation of a Green Fund, which will be sponsored by developed countries to assist the developing countries in adoption to climate change, Slivyak told RT. He exposed that the Green Fund’s bourse will hold as much as $30 billion within the next several years.

By 2020 the Green Fund will have $100 billion at its disposal and this is a great forward, though for Russia this move does not mean much, because Russia will neither take, nor give its money to the fund,” the ecologist remarked.

­The USA was not much thrilled by Durban package, said the US climate envoy Todd Stern. Washington, though a signee to the Kyoto Protocol, refused to ratify it in 2001. Joining the international climate system might not gather much support in the Congress, but still the package contained some major advances not to be overlooked, added Stern.

The USA, coming in as largest man-made carbon emitter #2, was included into the Kyoto protocol’s list of countries obliged to curb their greenhouse gases emissions. Developing countries are voluntary in their emission controls – a division the EU proposed to abolish.

But China and India, which have become carbon emitters #1 and #3 respectively in last decade, heatedly opposed the EU’s plan. India’s Environment Minister said this would contradict the Kyoto principle, which shared responsibility for atmosphere pollution. As the industrialized countries had a head start of 150 years, their duty should not be re-evaluated, he said.

Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua added the industrial nations have not lived up to their promises while China had launched their own green programs.

We are doing whatever we should do. We are doing things you are not doing. What qualifies you to say things like this?” he demanded, reports the Associated Press.

The arguement resulted in a separate document to the conference which obliges BASIC emerging economies (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) to accept legally binding emissions – in the future.

While some developing nations and ecologists sighed with relief over the extension of the Kyoto protocol, the others were frustrated the meeting in Durban failed to whack into cutting carbon emissions proper. The UN conference has provided no new emission control targets.

They have not reached a real deal,” said Samantha Smith, of WWF International. “They watered things down so everyone could get on board.

Current measures to tackle carbon emissions are falling far short of the goal of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) set by 2009 climate gathering in Copenhagen, ecologists said in the run-up to the conference.

A couple more years of power generators and factories fuming with carbon dioxide and the Earth will be set on a possibly irreversible path of rising temperatures that lead to ever greater climate catastrophes – more of severe droughts, floods and storms for mankind, the scientists said as reported by Agence France Presse.

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