COP 17 – Durban

Right now, the seventeenth Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is happening in Durban, South Africa.

Expectations are low.

The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. States that were outside Kyoto, like the United States, seem unlikely to commit to a new treaty. Those inside the treaty but with no reduction targets for greenhouse pollution, like China, seem unlikely to accept targets. Those who have simply chosen to ignore their targets, like Canada, will probably continue on that course. The states that have made real efforts under Kyoto are dispirited by the failure of the rest of the world to build on their example.

The fact that we are at the seventeenth annual conference and have not yet gotten on top of the problem is worrisome. It is as though the world’s scientists have told us that we are all on a train heading for the edge of a cliff. After all this time, we are nowhere near stopping the train. We haven’t even begun to slow down. Indeed, through behaviours like shale gas fracking and oil sands exploitation, we are investing billions of dollars in ways to make the train go faster.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

7 thoughts on “COP 17 – Durban”

  1. Kent rejects climate ‘guilt payment’ to poorer countries


    The Kyoto Protocol is built on an outdated view of the developed and developing world and the unacceptable demand for climate reparations from poorer countries, Environment Minister Peter Kent says.

    As he prepares to leave for the UN climate conference in South Africa this week, Mr. Kent continued to deflect questions on whether Canada would actually pull out of the Kyoto accord as was reported this week.

    But he made it clear the Harper government opposes the very foundations of the United Nations treaty, which was signed in 1997 by former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

    That includes the longstanding agreement among developed countries that they bear primary responsibility for the current buildup of greenhouse gases, and that they therefore carry the burden of reining in emissions and should transfer hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries to help them cope.

  2. Green Party chief fears Tories will act as ‘saboteurs’ at climate talks

    OTTAWA – Globe and Mail Update
    Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 6:08PM EST

    Elizabeth May believes Stephen Harper’s government is only participating in the UN climate-change conference in South Africa so it can sabotage the talks.

    The Green Party Leader said the Conservatives have “clearly made a decision” to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol that Canada and 190 other countries signed on to. Only the United States did not ratify the 1997 deal.

    “If we are firm in our commitments” to pull out of Kyoto it is “really bad faith” to show up in Durban because we are “playing the role of saboteurs,” she told The Globe on Wednesday. “We are negotiating in bad faith because we are using our role as a party to the Kyoto Protocol to negotiate in Durban in such a way that we would block progress to the world.”

    Ms. May believes Environment Minister Peter Kent and his officials will play an obstructionist role in Durban because the Harper government has no plans to sign on to a second Kyoto commitment period.

  3. It’s even worse than the classical prisoner’s dilemma.

    If Canada does the responsible thing and cuts emissions, it won’t matter at all unless big countries like China and the US do the same thing. That creates a temptation to do nothing.

    The temptation is even larger because the people who will suffer most from climate change haven’t even been born yet. They definitely aren’t making campaign contributions.

  4. Climate summit was a pathetic exercise in deceit

    Thomas Homer-Dixon
    Globe and Mail Update

    “You have been negotiating all of my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.”

    Ms. Appadurai nailed it. There’s really only one label for the pathetic exercise we’ve just witnessed in South Africa: deceit. The whole climate-change negotiation process and the larger political discourse surrounding this horrible problem is a drawn-out and elaborate exercise in lying – to each other, to ourselves, and especially to our children. And the lies are starting to corrupt our civilization from inside out.

    The climate negotiators lie to each other and the world when they claim the world can still limit the planet’s warming to two degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, the point at which many experts believe the risks from climate change rise sharply.

    It’s a lie because we’ve already experienced 0.8 degrees warming, and we’ve got at least another 0.6 degrees on the way due to carbon already in the atmosphere. Given that global carbon dioxide emissions of about 35 billion tons each year are now growing at an average of 3 per cent a year – which means they’re doubling every 23 years – it’s virtually certain we’re going to use up the remaining 0.6 degrees of leeway. In fact, the emerging consensus among climate experts is that we’ll be lucky to limit warming to 4 degrees.

  5. The verdict on Durban – a major step forward, but not for ten years

    Following the marathon negotiations session at Durban, all the delegates should now be back home – and if not quite rested, certainly ready to assess the outcome with the benefit of some distance. In this (rather long) post I will look at the key documents agreed in the Durban outcome, and try to offer some sense of what they mean for the climate regime, and for the climate. (Apologies for some jargon, and for unexplained acronyms, which should be familiar to anyone following the negotiations, and without which this post would be even longer still.)

  6. On Tuesday, Canada’s Environment Commissioner Scott Vaughan said he has a legal mandate to continue to inform Parliament of the government’s progress when it comes to meeting its targets under the binding climate accord.

    Under the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, Vaughan is obliged to provide yearly reports to MPs on the country’s efforts to meet its targets — even if the government pulls out of the agreement. Vaughan said he is working with a team of lawyers to determine what the implications of the government’s decision will be.

  7. Climate change
    The sad road from Kyoto to Durban
    The latest UN climate summit says much about why the world is failing to tackle global warming

    Dec 3rd 2011 | from the print edition

    IN HARD times governments are consumed by short-term problems. But this does not mean the archetypal long-term problem, climate change, has gone away. Science continues to support the case for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions so as to minimise the risks of catastrophe. Meanwhile it is clear how wretchedly the world is failing to do so. Even if countries honour their promises, the UN reckons that by 2020 emissions will exceed the trajectory for keeping warming under 2°C by up to 11 gigatonnes. That is equivalent to more than double the emissions of every car, bus and truck in 2005.

    Why is the world failing so badly? In part because changing the basics of how industrial economies are run is difficult, trying to do it at a rush harder still. Tax fossil fuels high enough and they will fall out of use. But the impact on the economy, and on powerful vested interests, of doing so at high speed may not be manageable. That is why many, including this newspaper, accept that a dash to stay under 2°C is no longer plausible. More deliberate action has more manageable costs.

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