Will the Durban Climate Summit succeed?

Will the Durban Climate Summit succeed?

By Anderson Kehbila

November 25, 2011

One of the hot potatoes being passed around the policy branches of state departments around the globe is the question of how to achieve a comprehensive, balanced and ambitious post-2012 Kyoto protocol that satisfies the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.

Recently, there have been numerous discussions to address this issue. One avenue, it is hoped, is deeper collaboration between policy makers during the upcoming UN climate change summit in Durban, South Africa.

Traditionally, however, climate negotiations have become political battlegrounds between developed and developing countries – each using the arena to advance their differing priorities. It’s unlikely Durban will be much different.

A quick overview of the negotiating positions of some of the most vocal players demonstrates the hurdles that must be overcome if Durban is to move forward action on climate change.

While the European Union has strongly been advocating for steeper and legally binding emissions cuts and targets for all nations, the U.S., Canada and India have consistently reiterated their strong support for voluntary worldwide climate agreements without any form of legal commitment.

In an effort to seal a climate deal in Durban, China recently proposed making its voluntary emissions monitoring program a binding requirement of a post-2012 Kyoto protocol. Although this proposal has been hailed by some as a positive step forward, an overwhelming number of industrialized nations see such a move as making a snail’s progress towards deep and meaningful emissions reduction targets.

Equally interesting to note is the African block’s keenness to get on board climate negotiations if developed nations fulfill their pledges to provide adaptation funds for vulnerable countries adversely affected by climate change. Unfortunately, the funds that have been promised over several climate negotiations have yet to materialize in any substantive way.

Australia and Norway’s proposal requiring all but the poorest countries to take on emissions cuts and targets has been met with strong opposition from vulnerable developing countries who want a legally binding agreement between developed and emerging economies; the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions.

In effect, the above contrasting views and positions of key climate players raise growing concerns and uncertainty about the content and structure of a post-2012 Kyoto protocol. The complex decision-making process of climate negotiations further exacerbates the problem. However, if policy makers really have some appetite for a comprehensive, balanced and ambitious global climate policy, then serious sacrifices and trade-offs, based on the principles of equity, economic efficiency and common but differentiated responsibilities, are essential. Without these sacrifices and trade offs, the upcoming Durban climate summit will go the way of so many other climate negotiations – nowhere.

(Icon photo courtesy of EPA)

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