Durban Climate Accord: Developed nations get five more years to cut emissions
December 23, 2011
Under the landmark 1997 Kyoto Protocol, it was obligatory for the developed countries to cut down carbon emissions to levels agreed by them by 2012. Well before the deadline, the developed nations have managed to get a big breather – at least five years extension under an accord adopted by a marathon 194-nation conference, on December 11 in Durban (South Africa).
Environmentalists criticise the Durban package – as did many developing countries during the 13 days of hectic talks – for failing to move faster and deeper in cutting carbon emissions. Logically, the time to act is now, scientists maintain. They say that unless carbon emissions – chiefly carbon dioxide (CO2) from power generation and industry – level out and reverse within a few years, the Earth will be set on a possibly irreversible path of rising temperatures that lead to ever greater climate catastrophes. Some states argued that the developing countries have less responsibility than industrial nations that caused the global warming problem through 200 years of pollution. Therefore, the Durban package does not seem equitable, especially for developing countries that account for a minute fraction of global warming but have to pay the heaviest costs in the face of erratic weather in Asia and Africa.
Environmentalists believe there are too many loopholes in the ‘Durban Platform’ to ensure a uniform regulatory policy. Furthermore, domestic political constraints make it unlikely that pledges in Durban for more green projects in the developed world and stepped up aid for developing countries will come to fruition given problems for government funding in Europe, USA and Japan. The apprehension of the scientists seems to be quite weighty, as following the Durban conference Canada became the first country to formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol, saying the pact was preventing the world from effectively tackling climate change. Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said: “We believe that a new agreement with legally binding commitments for all major emitters that allows us as a country to generate jobs and economic growth represents the path forward.”
Under the Kyoto agreement, curbs apply only to rich countries, excluding the United States, which has refused to ratify the accord. Canada had agreed, under the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce CO2 emissions to 6.0 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, but its emissions of the gases blamed for damaging Earth’s fragile climate system have instead increased sharply. Pulling out of Kyoto now allows Canada to avoid paying penalties of up to CAN$ 14 billion (US$ 13.6 billion) for missing its targets.
According to Kent, Canada produces barely two percent of global emissions. “To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012 would be equivalent of either removing every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car, and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads or closing down the entire farming and agricultural sector and cutting heat to every home, office, hospital, factory, and building in Canada.” Furthermore, “it is an agreement that covers fewer than 30 percent of global emissions, by some estimates 15 percent or less,” Kent said.
For Kyoto supporters, Canadian pullout can badly damage the UN climate process already weakened by divisions. For instance, it can encourage other industrial countries to follow suit and thus negatively impact the Green Climate Fund that the Durban conference had decided to establish to provide US$ 100 billion dollars, every year, by 2020, for projects, programmes, policies and other activities in the developing countries using thematic funding windows. Amongst its other uses, the Green Climate Fund could help identify climate friendly technologies, facilitate their deployment and adaptation to the needs of the developing countries, build national/regional technology management capacity, and support the research, development and demonstration of new climate friendly technologies.