Rifts emerge at COP 17

2011-11-28 12:35

Durban - UN talks on climate change opened in Durban on Monday clouded by signs of a deepening political rift on how to slow the carbon juggernaut.

Topping the agenda is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact with targets for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, whose first round of pledges expires at the end of 2012.

The conference must also push ahead with a "Green Climate Fund" to channel up to $100bn a year by 2020 to countries exposed to drought, flood, storms and rising seas, which scientists forecast will worsen this century.

But the mood at the talks has been soured by divisions over sharing out the burden of emissions curbs, while the dark clouds of a global economic crisis are casting a shadow over the climate fund.

"We are in Durban with one purpose: to find a common solution that will secure a future to generations to come," said International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is chairing the 12-day, 194-nation parlay.

A safer future

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres warned that the talks urgently needed to shore up public confidence that something was being done.

"This conference needs to reassure the vulnerable, all those who have already suffered and all those who will still suffer from climate change, that tangible action is being taken for a safer future," said Figueres.

"We meet here at a time when greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere have never been higher, when the number of livelihoods that have been dissolved by climate change impacts has never been greater and when the need for action has never been more compelling or achievable.

"Finding a workable way forward in this complexity is the defining issue of this conference."

Divisions within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have pitched rich against poor, rich against rich and poor against poor.

Wealthy countries that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol are balking at demands to renew their emissions-cutting vows beyond 2012.

Such a move would be folly so long as China, which as a developing country has no specified targets under Kyoto, and the United States, which abandoned the treaty in 2001, are not bound by similar constraints, they argue.


"It is headed towards a real impasse in Durban, frankly, there is no way to gloss over it," a veteran observer participating in the talks said on Sunday.

"There are very few options left open to wring much out of the meeting unless the position of these major countries softens considerably."

Within the bloc of developing countries, fears are widening that the so-called BASIC countries - Brazil, China, India and South Africa-- which are now big or even massive emitters - want to push back a global pact to as late as 2020.

If Kyoto is not renewed, the only matrix for tackling greenhouse-gas emissions will be the voluntary pledges launched in 2009 in a face-saving deal at the stormy Copenhagen climate summit.

But the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says these pledges currently fall far short of limiting global warming to 2°C over pre-industrial levels, a goal enshrined last year.

To have a "likely" chance of meeting this target, annual emissions would have to fall by about 8.5% by 2020 compared to 2010 levels and keep declining by some 2.6% each year thereafter. Last year, they rose by a record amount.

Small island nations facing rising seas are demanding that warming be limited to 1.5°C, and see any delay as a sell-out - or worse.

"The push by the world's biggest carbon polluters to delay flies in the face of the overwhelming evidence in support of immediate action and represents a betrayal of the people most vulnerable to climate change and the world," said Grenada's Dessima Williams, chairperson of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS.)

  • RobertaKeeling - 2011-11-28 13:02

    First day of the conference, and they're alredy bickering? I think another multi million Rand exercise gone to waste! And these people are supposed to govern us mere mortals? What a joke!!

      Gwaa - 2011-11-28 13:44

      Why is everybody sooo concerned about mother earth... she will survive. Humans will not, and nor do they deserve too... As simple as that. Waste money... soon it will be worthless anyway.

  • MSGRule - 2011-11-28 13:05

    The earth is building up for a big event. An event of immense proportions. The rumbling is happening and that is just to warn us to get ready. An the conferences being held is a serious waste of money Rather take tha money and teach the emerging countries how to farm and build themselves instead of puttign the billions into a trust and wasting.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-11-28 13:07

    Without China and the US binding themselves to this agreement, any attempt to enforce it on the rest of the world would be not only a travesty, but the ultimate exercise in futility as well.

      barryjhearne - 2011-11-28 17:46

      While I agree with your sentiment, it is a great opportunity for countries other than the US and China to lead. We are not bound to follow their lead, nor should we.

  • Quirk - 2011-11-28 13:39

    I'm no scientist, but i can say one thing for certain, focusing on, and spending trillions of dollars on one aspect of a perceived issue at the expense of all others is just stupid...

      Gwaa - 2011-11-28 13:48

      What does being a scientist and spending trillions of dollars have in common? Maybe that's why you are not a scientist... Maybe rather try stand-up comedy!

      Quirk - 2011-11-28 13:55

      It has to do with the fact that there are many factors currently causing damage to the planet, and that focusing on AGW to the exclusion of the rest is short sighted and akin to treating a headache with a band aid... You don't need to be a scientist to see that do you?

      Gwaa - 2011-11-28 15:23

      Are you stupid or just slow?

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2011-11-28 13:54

    Nobody says a word on population , more humans means more co2 emmisions/carbon footprint/whatever carbon thing .Just a thought considering its the most highly correlated stat with climate change that everyone glosses over.

      Gwaa - 2011-11-28 15:38

      Again.... People will die, soon! And rightly so... Earth kindly allowed us to live here, but mankind's only trademark is destroying everything in it's path for their own benefit... and then they cry when it is gone. Millions of examples and the final example of this will be the end of mankind! Make the most of your days on earth, you never know when she decides it will be your last... And she is getting angry at what we are doing. Hush little baby, don't you cry... Come on, sing it loud! Ha ha!

  • jay035 - 2011-11-28 14:01

    as long as the world`s biggest polluters, the US and China dont change their attitudes all these talks are nothing but a social meeting and a waste of time..

      Peter - 2011-11-28 14:09

      & money

  • Deon - 2011-11-28 14:45

    This climate change sounds to me like a lot of hot air. Let us rather have a warmer climate than another ice age. We can handle it.

      Günter - 2011-11-28 15:24

      Your stupidity is inredible.....

      Mike - 2011-11-28 17:56

      Deon global warming results eventually in an ice age once fresh water saturates the salt oceans by causing the Gulf Stream to stop functioning. There is tons of scientific articles on the subject....Read

  • Mike - 2011-11-28 15:02

    This was obvious before the conference even started. Without the commitment of the main "polluters" and "super" powers this entire conference is a waste of time, effort and money.

  • horan.mark - 2011-11-28 16:09

    The whole debate around climate change has been obfuscated by media, lobbyists, rock stars, politicians etc. The raw science behind the issue has been lost. I don't have faith in more conferences, more goverment spending (which requires a significant allocation for corruption and incompetence). The core science in itself debated. The lay man cannot help but be intimidated by the computer modelling and forecasting which has so called showed that the earth is in dire straits. In the panic, what has been lost is a thorough understanding of the carbon cycle and its value to all living things on the planet. The debate has been hijacked by lobbyists against industry in some absurd ways. I most certainly believe in a move towards non-carbon based energy systems becuase we need to preserve the carbon cycle for carbon based life forms such as ourselves. We may certainly need to consider management of carbon in the atmosphere. What we must not allow or encourage is masses of hype resulting in ineffective and superficial approaches. Therefore I don't support this or any other conference. We have the solutions and need to fund them not the hype.

      Eric - 2011-11-28 16:29

      @horan. "We have the solutions" Correct - it's called nuclear power

  • heatmoth - 2011-11-28 16:54

    I can understand that developing countries, in line to receive $ 100 billion per year, are pushing hard for this -- " Green Climate Fund ", however, I can also understand the reluctance of the countries who should pay this money out in the prevailing economic meltdown to actually do so. A lot of money has already been spent in all the C O P conferences, but runaway global warming continue accelerating out of control. There are many effective things that could be done without spending money:- for example debate the impact of OVERPOPULATION, also encourage humanity to have smaller families, ideally no more than 2 children per family. Less people less pollution !!!! It is time to act first and if some success is detected spend some money later !!!!! but it is not realistic to expect developed nations to continue to pour money in a bottomless pit of failures.

  • Ever - 2011-11-28 17:15

    $100bn per year!!!Wow. Does anybody seriously think that that sort of money will get anywhere near to what it is intended for? If you do I feel sorry for you-you are truly naive. I can already hear the sound of all those gravy trains chugging along. When aid for starving people ends up in the pockets of corrupt and greedy people instead of those for whom it is intended you can bet that a few select people are going to get very rich indeed. This coastal dog and pony show is a complete farce. The organisers might be a little more credible if this had been done by videoconferencing instead of thousands of people flying in (all those carbon emissions) for a holiday.

  • ludlowdj - 2011-11-29 10:04

    Anyone who has followed world natural event over the last year or so already knows that the climate change is a lie and that we are heading towards a much bigger and more deadly natural occurrence in the next 18 months that will wipe out around 90% of the worlds population within a 2 year period. Governments, the scientific community and the activists are all already aware it can not be stopped of delayed and that there is nothing they can do to prevent large scale loss of life. its easier to lie than risk the mass hysteria the truth will unleash.

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