Durban summit drawing a blank!

UN secretary-general urges members states not to wait for a legally binding agreement and instead, go back and initiate take own strategies to reduce their greenhouse gases.
Published : 8 Dec 2011, 04:52 AM
Updated : 8 Dec 2011, 04:52 AM
Sayed Talat Kamal
From Durban, South Africa
Durban, Dec 8 ( — As it becomes more and more evident that a legally binding climate change agreement may fall through the cracks at Durban, UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon has urged attending countries to go back and forge legislation and strategies to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions.
"Don't wait for a binding agreement. It could take years," warned the UN chief. "All member states should take their own measures," he said.
A second commitment period of the Kyoto protocol has been pushed by the EU, at the UN Climate Summit (COP17), to impose renewed legally-binding emission restrictions. This time, proposing not just the rich nations embrace emissions control but also developing countries that are major emitters. Current Kyoto Protocol restrictions expire by the end of 2012.
As it stands, the EU and only a few other countries have agreed to sign on to a second commitment period of the protocol, but only on condition that other major emitters also sign up.
Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC), has confirmed that negotiations were not going at a pace that would be acceptable.
While stressing that there has been good progress made last week and this during talks at Durban, she also point out that the climate change agreement was being written by nearly 200 countries so "we cannot wait for a perfect business plan." She warned "if we don't do implementation now, governments will not be able to implement when the plan is perfected. It will be too late."
Climate change is a result of greenhouse gases trapping the sun's heat in the earth's atmosphere. The trapped heat raisees global temperatures, which in turn trigger changes in weather conditions, leading to stronger and more frequent cyclones and floods, rising seas, drought, erosion and increased salinity.
It is widely accepted that a rise of global temperatures over 2 degrees Celsius would cause irreversible climate change.
Global studies, endorsed by the UN and the scientific community indicate that in order to arrest the temperature rise within 1.5 degrees, global emissions must reduced to 40 percent of what they were in 1990 by the year 2020 and to 95 percent of 1990-levels by 2050. Furthermore emissions must not peak after 2015.
Ban has committed that the UN would continue to help countries take action as well as implement practical climate change policies and green policy initiatives.
The US, China and India, which account for more than half the global emissions, have been reluctant to commit to the renewed emissions restrictions, as advocated by the EU. However, while China and India have shown an interest to consider legally-binding carbon restrictions, the US has instead insisted on a 10-year timeout with no new targets to lower emissions until 2020.
It is being reported that some countries believed that, given the current stalemate in talks, despite its suggestion that it would not sign on to the second Kyoto protocol commitment the EU would back down and eventually compromise and bend over backwards to save the protocol.
Ville Niinisto, Finland's minister of environment, however vehemently disagrees. "We want a second Kyoto protocol period but we are not fools," he argued. He feared that there was a very real chance that the deal that would be signed in Durban might not be "good enough to continue with Kyoto."
Nonetheless Finland and other Nordic countries are moving ahead working with developing countries to create practical, concrete projects that would help those countries reduce their emissions. Already progress has been made through Nordic pilot projects to reduce greenhouse emissions from cement production in Vietnam and managing Peru's waste management.
Finland is also pushing strongly for gender equality in climate negotiations as it believes that empowering women in developing economies would also play a role in reducing carbon emissions. The reasoning being that educated women and girls would help reduce populations and directly reduce strain on resources.
Helping developing nations formulate practical, concrete projects to mitigate climate change in turn would also resolve another strong point of contention among delegates at COP17 - that of the proper use and distribution of the Green Climate Fund; a fund, that in theory, would be used to provide up to US$ 100 billion each year to help countries, most vulnerable by climate change, pay for programmes to adapt to climate change and reduce their own green house gas emissions.
The establishment of this fund was agreed upon in the last COP16 conference in Cancun, Mexico last year.
Speaking about the Green Climate Fund, Helen Clark, the administrator of the UN Development Programme, commented "very little money so far has gone to low-income countries because they have no capacity and no plans. There needs to be capacity supplementation to ensure developing countries are ready. The climate fund will support countries to be ready."
However, the source of the fund itself is another hurdle in the climate talks as nations are divided amongst themselves on 'fair share' contributions and with regards to decisions on the eligibility and fund allocation among the affected developing nations.
Oil-rich Saudi Arabia has courted controversy with its claim for compensation for addressing climate change for agreeing to reduce its crude extraction. The oil rich nation has, however, not indicated any commitment to contribute towards the original fund.
Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher