Over the summer, I have reflected on the significance of the climate talks last month in Durban, South Africa. Officially known as COP17, it was the longest UNFCCC conference. See my previous post for more background on the talks (though my views have become slightly more nuanced since I wrote it, particularly on the issue of justice).
There were four major sides in Durban:
The United States (US), supported by its usual cheer squad of other rich polluters including Canada, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, campaigned strongly to delay any new action indefinitely. The US has since 1997 been opposed to any legally binding agreement unless it also imposes targets on poor countries. Having won a global regime of insufficient, voluntary pledges through bilateral negotiations in Copenhagen, the US argued in Durban there was no need to strengthen those pledges before 2020, and refused to accept binding emissions cuts until sometime after 2020, if ever, or even to start negotiations before 2015. Despite having signed the Cancun Agreements in 2010 to “take urgent action” to “hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” (a target which the latest research says is still “a prescription for disaster”), US negotiator Todd Stern told the media in Durban that the US sees 2°C as a mere “guidepost”, not “some kind of mandatory obligation”. Meanwhile, Canada, Russia, and Japan helped sabotage Kyoto while refusing to continue being part of it; Australia and New Zealand colluded on creative accounting rules. Read the rest of this entry ?