Archive for December, 2011


What Should Happen in Durban

9 December 2011

“We have shown that phase out of fossil fuel emissions is urgent. CO2 from fossil fuel use stays in the surface climate system for millennia.”

NASA climate scientist James Hansen and 16 co-authors

“We would be quite open to a discussion about a process that would lead to a negotiation for the thing, whatever it turns out to be, that follows 2020, and we are also fully willing to recognize that that might be a legal agreement.”

US climate delegate Todd Stern

So here we are again, at the height of humanity’s annual cycle of talking about our response to the escalating climate crisis. This time around the stakes are higher than ever: the crisis has never been more pressing, yet the procrastination has never been more blatant.

I am, of course, referring to the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa, where world leaders are currently gathered. I use the term “leaders” to refer to the people who are in charge, rather than to imply they are demonstrating any actual leadership. On the contrary, by all indications the conference is heading for a catastrophic failure of leadership.

The only real leadership in Durban has been the protests from the reasonable voices who are being ignored: a broad coalition of the poorest countries (African and small island states), young people, the Occupy movement, and environmental groups. Collectively they form the “climate justice movement”.

They argue, fairly convincingly, that the talks are dominated by rich countries, in turn controlled by polluting corporations, who are attempting to dismantle the Kyoto Protocol and replace it with an even weaker voluntary regime. While Kyoto is weak, is riddled with loopholes, and has so far failed – global emissions have risen by half since the reference year of 1990, and by a record-breaking 6% in 2010 – it remains the only existing international treaty with a framework for legally binding emissions targets. And rich countries want to carry over from Kyoto the offsets and other loopholes which have made it ineffective. Read the rest of this entry ?