Canadian Consulting Engineer

News

Reactions mixed to Durban Climate accord

On the heels of the U.N. conference on climate change held in Durban, South Africa that ended on Sunday, the Canadian government has decided to withdraw from the Kyoto Accord, the 1997 international agreement to cut greenhouse gases.


On the heels of the U.N. conference on climate change held in Durban, South Africa that ended on Sunday, the Canadian government has decided to withdraw from the Kyoto Accord, the 1997 international agreement to cut greenhouse gases.

Meanwhile, reaction in Canada and elsewhere has been mixed to the new climate change agreement agreed to in Durban.

Negotiators were up until 5 a.m. last Sunday morning to come up with the so-called “Durban Platform.” It provides for a new international agreement on cutting greenhouse gases to replace the Kyoto accord by 2015 to. However the emission limits established in 2015 will not come into effect until 2020. The Durban agreement was signed by 194 countries.

Many analysts say that the Durban platform is important and even “groundbreaking” because for the first time it will set up a legal obligation for all signing countries — including developing countries — to cut their emissions. 

However, because the new agreement isn’t effective until 2015-2020, some believed that developing countries with booming economies such as India and China have been let off too easily. Under the Kyoto Accord, developing countries aren’t required to cut their emissions.

A report in the Globe and Mail quoted Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of Environment who was at the Durban conference: “I noticed that those at the Chinese desk were looking quite pleased that it [the new agreement] does provide, at least until 2020, a continuing loophole for China to claim to be a developing country without responsibilities.” 

Also, it’s not clear that the developing countries will be forced to cut their emissions at the same rate as the developed world. The precise terms of the agreement are said to be vague and short on details. The Globe and Mail suggested that even after 2015-2020 the developing countries will still have fewer obligations than developing countries.

The Washington Post noted the discrepancy between European concerns and the real situation. Its report of December 11 noted that Europe had been discussing for several years whether to limit its emissions by 20% or 30%. But, said the newspaper, Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency had shocked a group of European officials recently “by telling them that the difference between those two goals was equivalent to a matter of weeks’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions from China.”

Not surprisingly, therefore, environmentalists are warning that in terms of its real effects in reducing the scale of greenhouse gas emissions, the Durban platform will fail to avert catastrophe. In the Guardian newspaper, Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK, said: “Governments have salvaged a path forward for negotiations, but we must be under no illusion – the outcome of Durban leaves us with the prospect of being legally bound to a world of 4C warming. This would be catastrophic for people and the natural world. Governments have spent crucial days focused on a handful of specific words in the negotiating text, but have paid little heed to repeated warnings from the scientific community that much stronger, urgent action is needed to cut emissions.”

“Climate Tracker,” an independent scientist-based organization whose director Bill Hare is associated with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Rsearch, said that the Durban agreement was positive “in that governments have reopened the door to a legally binding global agreement involving the world’s major emitters.”

At the same time, Climate Tracker warned that the current reduction proposals on the table are insufficient and that by 2100 the result could be the dieback of the Amazon rain forest, thawing of permafrost, and the release of methane hydrates in ocean floor sediments — all of which would greatly exacerbate the earth’s warming effects.


Print this page

Related Posts



Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*