Monday, December 12, 2011

Political landscape of the UN Climate talks in Durban and our future

This blog was originally featured on Express Pakistan.

Durban talks are heating up as the UN conference on Climate Change get closure to its conclusion. Ministers are already in the conference and taking over the negotiations to review different proposals on how to tackle climate crisis. Different groups are trying to convince Conference of Parties, keeping in view both the climate and economic crisis. However, due to clear differences in political opinions of certain countries like America, European Union, China and India, a new agreement to replace Kyoto protocol, which will expire next year, seems unlikely.

Kyoto protocol (2008-12) is the only binding agreement in place that set targets for 37 industrial countries and European community to reduce greenhouse gases from the use of industries and burning of fossil fuel. However, America never signed this protocol and always opposed such proposals which do not bind emerging economies like China, Brazil and India on emission reduction. China and India, on the other tells different story and justify their opinion that they have no history of polluting the world environment and cannot be bound equally with America or Europe. China has recently become the biggest carbon emitter in the world. However countries like China, Brazil and India strongly disagree with America and even argue that they should not be asked to enter into such binding agreement until year 2020. They hold industrial countries being responsible for changing the world climate due their long history of carbon pollution.

China, Brazil and India claim that their emerging economies are still standing at early stages to support millions of poor families. America, however think differently than China that global carbon emission has now no boundaries and that emerging economies are now also significantly contributing in global carbon emission. The fights continue with the argument of China as it presents quite responsive environment friendly policy that practically promotes growth of renewable energies in the country.

This lack of climate consensus not only prevails between countries like America and China but also among China, G77 and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), mostly from Africa. LDCs consider their position an extremely vulnerable and totally reject the claims of countries like America and China during the Durban talks. According to LDCs, delay in climate action and reach binding agreement will put those vulnerable countries in worst situation. Such group proposes that delay in agreement till 2020 will make climate change irreversible as supported by climate science. In fact, LDCs advocate that average global temperature should not exceed 1.5 degree C, rather than 2 degree C which America, China, South Africa and India agreed during their so-called Copenhagen accord in 2009.

Agreement on Green Climate Fund (GCF) is another important agenda in the Durban conference. During the 2009 Copenhagen conference, member countries agreed to establish GCF fund with the starting amount of $3 billion per year from 2012 and raise it up to $100 billion per year by 2020. This proposed fund will support poor, developing countries to build their resilience and adapt to climate change. However, GCF is still not functionalized. Pakistan during the Durban conference is actively advocating for the establishment of GCF and its distribution mechanism for poor countries. The LDCs are also demanding that rich countries should not drag money from the already pledged development funds in order to mobilize resources for GCF.

Despite all these different political arguments in Durban talks, science is however, very clear in explaining the consequences of changing climate if world leadership delays binding agreements on climate change. We are already witnessing disasters likes flooding in Pakistan and Australia, heat wave in Russia, cyclones in Philippine and severe drought in China. International Energy Agency (IEA) even warns a week ahead of Durban conference that if the world does not control global carbon emission, impacts of climate change will become irreversible in coming five years. The consequences will be more frequent and disastrous weather extremes, diseases and deaths. In fact science should drive the UN Climate Change conference, rather than the politics. We are accountable to our future generation who will ask us what we did with our planet and what we left for them.

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