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Africa: Climate Change Updates
Dec 7, 2011 (111207)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Rich countries must hear loud and clear that Africa won't
pay for their crisis. Developed countries are trying to kill
the Kyoto Protocol. They want to turn back the clock to 1997
and shift responsibility for the climate crisis they created
onto the developing countries already bearing the brunt of
climate change." - Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains four recent documents on
climate change, selected from the plethora of commentaries
as the climate change summit in Durban moves into its final
days. These are (1) a brief statement released today by the
Friends of the Earth International, (2) a press release from the
Global Carbon Project showing that fossil fuel emissions
rebounded with a 5.9% growth rate in 2010, and that rates of
increase over the last decade averaged 3.1% a year, three
times the rate of increase during the 1990s, (3) an overview
statement of the issues at stake released before the Durban
conference by a coalition of NGOs including the Pan African
Climate Justice Alliance and the Third World Network, and
(4) an article from the Canadian environmental site Mongabay
noting the particularly damaging results of recent Canadian
and U.S. policy, both on the tar sands project and on
climate issues more generally.
Another Bulletin released today, available on the web at
http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/clim1112b.php but not sent
out by e-mail, contains the text of Chapter 2, with an
overview of carbon trading in Africa to date as well as a
review of pending projects.
Additional recent useful background documents, too long to
include here, include (1) a very useful general background
report from Southern Africa Report, stressing the critical
role of China (available for download at
, and (2) a report by Oxfam on the consequences of climate
change for food security (available at http://tinyurl.com/86lsasb).
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and the
environment, with much additional background, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Climate Talks: Durban Inaction a Recipe for Climate
7 December 2011
Friends of the Earth International
Durban, South Africa, 7 December 2011 - Friends of the Earth
International has issued strong warnings against climate
inaction at the UN climate talks in Durban, and blamed
industrialised countries like the US, Canada, Japan and
Europe for seeking to unravel existing agreements under the
guise of a "new mandate" for the climate negotiations.
As global leaders arrive today for the final three days of
talks, the international grassroots environmental
organisation has pointed to the highly destructive agenda of
developed countries, including the EU, which have so far
failed in Durban to propose any ambitious emission
reductions and any suitable finance and technology support
to developing countries.
Friends of the Earth International has called on developing
countries to resist the push from the rich industrialised
world to tear up existing commitments. A new mandate - which
means not implementing existing obligations - would lock in
ten years of inaction and set the world squarely on a course
for climate catastrophe.
"Rich countries must hear loud and clear that Africa won't
pay for their crisis. Developed countries are trying to kill
the Kyoto Protocol. They want to turn back the clock to 1997
and shift responsibility for the climate crisis they created
onto the developing countries already bearing the brunt of
climate change. Anything less than strong legally-binding
emissions reductions for developed countries under a second
commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol must be understood
for what it is - a mandate to burn Africa and our people"
said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth
"This talk of a new treaty is a ruse to distract the world
from the failure of developed countries to deliver on their
existing commitments to cut emissions. We don't need a new
mandate, a mandate already exists. A new mandate will open
the door to climate deregulation where polluters continue to
pollute, speculators profit from pollution, and the rest of
the world carries the burden of the climate crisis" said
Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth Malaysia.
The EU has driven the call for a new mandate but it is
advancing a wider agenda of rich industrialised countries
like the US, Japan and Canada to escape from the current
system of legally-binding emissions reduction targets for
those countries which have caused the climate crisis -- and
shift responsibility onto developing countries. Meanwhile,
countries are using the international climate negotiations
to drive forward false and dangerous solutions to climate
change like the expansion of carbon trading.
"It is clear what is driving this agenda. More and more
countries are coming to the international climate talks with
one objective in mind: to defend and advance the economic
interests of their polluting industries and multinational
corporations and resist the global effort for a strong and
fair agreement to tackle climate change. Many civil society
groups are calling Durban a conference of polluters. We
cannot let the polluters win and lock in a decade of
inaction on the climate crisis. Africa must stand strong on
behalf of the people of Africa and the people of the world,"
said Bobby Peek of Friends of the Earth South Africa.
For more information
Friends of the Earth International media line: +27 791 097
223 (South African number valid only until Dec.10) or
+31-6-5100 5630 (Dutch mobile) or email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International:
+234 803 727 4395 (Nigerian mobile) or +27 (0) 71 63 92 542
(South African mobile valid only until Dec.10),
Bobby Peek, Director of Friends of the Earth South Africa /
groundWork: +27 824 641 383 (South African mobile),
Meena Raman, Friends of the Earth Malaysia:+27(0)72 26 18
870 (valid until Dec. 9)
Friends of the Earth International media line
Tel: +27-79-10 97 223 (S.Afr. mobile valid Nov.28-Dec.9
or +31-6-5100 5630 (Dutch mobile) or email:email@example.com
Global carbon emissions reach record 10 billion tonnes -
threatening two degree target
December 4, 2011
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/ / direct URL:
Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels
have increased by 49 per cent in the last two decades,
according to the latest figures by an international team,
including researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate
Change Research, University of East Anglia (UEA).
Published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, the
new analysis by the Global Carbon Project shows fossil fuel
emissions increased by 5.9 per cent in 2010 and by 49 per
cent since 1990 - the reference year for the Kyoto protocol.
On average, fossil fuel emissions have risen by 3.1 per cent
each year between 2000 and 2010 - three times the rate of
increase during the 1990s. They are projected to continue to
increase by 3.1 per cent in 2011.
Total emissions - which combine fossil fuel combustion,
cement production, deforestation and other land use
emissions - reached 10 billion tonnes of carbon1 in 2010 for
the first time. Half of the emissions remained in the
atmosphere, where CO2 concentration reached 389.6 parts per
million. The remaining emissions were taken up by the ocean
and land reservoirs, in approximately equal proportions.
Rebounding from the global financial crisis of 2008-09 when
emissions temporarily decreased, last year's high growth was
caused by both emerging and developed economies. Rich
countries continued to outsource part of their emissions to
emerging economies through international trade.
Contributions to global emissions growth in 2010 were
largest from China, the United States, India, the Russian
Federation and the European Union. Emissions from the trade
of goods and services produced in emerging economies but
consumed in the West increased from 2.5 per cent of the
share of rich countries in 1990 to 16 per cent in 2010.
In the UK, fossil fuel CO2 emissions grew 3.8 per cent in
2010 but were 14 per cent below their 1990 levels. However,
emissions from the trade of goods and services grew from 5
per cent of the emissions produced locally in 1990 to 46 per
cent in 2010 - overcompensating the reductions in local
emissions. Emissions in the UK were 20 per cent above their
1990 levels when emissions from trade are taken into
"Global CO2 emissions since 2000 are tracking the high end
of the projections used by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, which far exceed two degrees warming by
2100," said co-author Prof Corinne Le Qu´r´ director of the
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at
the University of East Anglia. "Yet governments have pledged
to keep warming below two degrees to avoid the most
dangerous aspects of climate change such as widespread water
stress and sea level rise, and increases in extreme climatic
"Taking action to reverse current trends is urgent."
Lead author Dr Glen Peters, of the Centre for International
Climate and Environmental Research in Norway, said: "Many
saw the global financial crisis as an opportunity to move
the global economy away from persistent and high emissions
growth, but the return to emissions growth in 2010 suggests
the opportunity was not exploited."
Co-author Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global
Carbon Project, added: "The global financial crisis has
helped developed countries meet their production emission
commitments as promised in the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen
Accord, but its impact has been short-lived and pre-existing
'Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008-2009 global
financial crisis' by GP Peters, G Marland, C Le QuÃ©rÃ©, T
Boden, JG Canadell and MR Raupach is published online by
Nature Climate Change on December 4 2011.
The Global Carbon Project is opening an office at the
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA in 2012,
funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The
office will support the annual publication of emissions
statistics for the atmosphere, ocean and land reservoirs.
For more information, visit
1Values reported here are in billion tonnes of carbon. To
convert emissions to billion tons of CO2, multiply the value
What is at stake in Durban
A civil society analysis of mitigation issues in the climate
2011-12-01, Issue 560
* This analysis was jointly prepared by: Asian Indigenous
Women's Network, Friends of the Earth EWNI, Friends of the
Earth (FoE) US, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
(IATP), International Forum on Globalization, Jubilee South
- Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Pan African
Climate Justice Alliance, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Tebtebba
and Third World Network (TWN)
It's a Planetary and Humanitarian Emergency
The world is already reeling from major humanitarian
emergencies exacerbated by climate change: floods in
Thailand and Pakistan, landslides from extreme rains in many
Latin American countries and the multi-year drought in the
Horn of Africa that threatens the lives of millions.
Current levels of warming have already begun triggering
major 'tipping points' in the Earth's system - such as
Arctic methane releases, Amazon dieback and the loss of
icesheets. 2 degrees C of warming, as proposed by some
governments, threatens to tip a cascade of events that will
cause warming to spin out of control. We have known since
1986 that warming 'beyond 1 degrees C may elicit rapid,
unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to
extensive ecosystem damage', the effects of which we're
But Rich Countries Risk Climate Anarchy
To address this crisis many countries - particularly
developing countries - seek an agreement in Durban based on
science, on the existing legally binding and multilateral
system reflected in the Climate Convention and its Kyoto
Protocol, and on the deal agreed by all countries in the
A handful of wealthy countries - including notably the
United States - are now seeking to move the goalposts. They
want to dismantle the rules for developed countries'
emissions reductions, shift the burden to developing
countries and renege on the Bali Roadmap. In the process,
they are trying to end the Kyoto Protocol, and even the
Convention, and replace it with a weak, ineffective 'pledge
and review' system that may take years to negotiate.
Durban, then, is shaping up as a clash of paradigms between
those who believe that the world deserves and needs a
science- and rules-based multilateral climate system to
tackle perhaps the greatest challenge to face humanity, and
those who are seeking to dismantle the existing one.
Developed Countries Must Close the Mitigation Gap
To have a good chance of keeping global warming below 2
degrees C - a goal that is by no means safe - annual climate
pollution must be about 12Gt lower globally by 2020,
according to UNEP. Around 14Gt is likely required to keep
warming below 1.5 degrees C.
In Copenhagen, developing countries pledged more than 5Gt of
reductions with the support of finance, technology and
capacity. They are willing to do their part, subject to
delivery of finance, technology and capacity in accordance
with the Convention. So to keep warming below 1.5 degrees C
a gap remains of around 9Gt (that is, 14 minus 5) for
developed countries to reduce.
However, developed countries have offered less than 4Gt of
reductions, an effort considerably less ambitious than that
offered by developing countries, and despite their
'differentiated responsibilities and capabilities' - that
is, their greater role in causing climate change and
capacities to address it. Moreover, around 4Gt could be lost
in accounting 'loopholes.' Carbon markets would make this
outcome even worse. Rich countries may, in other words, make
'no net contribution to reducing emissions by 2020'.
Given how far emission pledges are from what the science
requires, negotiations remain dangerously off track. A UNEP
report confirms that countries' pledged emission reductions
are too weak to avert dangerous climate change, and could
cause warming of a catastrophic 5 degrees C. Warming in
Africa and other large land-masses would occur at much
higher levels, heralding impacts not experienced in the
history of human civilization.
The Bargain of the Bali Roadmap must be Kept
Under the Bali Roadmap agreed at the December 2007 UN
climate conference, governments agreed to an approach under
which all countries (covering 100 percent of global
emissions) would contribute to the solution of climate
change in accordance with equity, historical responsibility
and common but differentiated responsibilities.
Governments agreed to two tracks of negotiations under the
Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. The agreement was that
the current system would be maintained as the foundation of
the global climate regime, and that we would build around
this foundation in an equitable way.
Under the Bali Roadmap, it was understood that:
- The negotiations to ensure developed countries would adopt
a second period of binding emission reduction commitments
under the Kyoto Protocol commencing 2013;
- The United States, which is the only country to repudiate
the Kyoto Protocol, would undertake comparable commitments
under the Convention; and
- Developing countries would undertake nationally
appropriate mitigation actions, enabled and supported by
financing and technology that would be measurable,
reportable and verifiable.
The bargain, emphasized consistently by the African Group
and many other developing countries, was to maintain the
existing rules - including provisions on transparency and
compliance under the Kyoto Protocol - and to lift up the
standard of other countries (including the United States)
through new negotiations under the Convention.
Developed countries were also to honour their long-standing,
but largely un-implemented, obligations to enable adaptation
and provide substantial financial and technology transfers
to developing countries.
Instead: Deregulating the Climate Regime
Rather than honour this plan, many developed countries have
now indicated their clear intention to avoid binding
obligations to reduce their climate pollution by killing the
Kyoto Protocol and replacing it with a weaker 'pledge and
review' system. At the same time, they are seeking to retain
and expand their favoured elements of the Kyoto Protocol
(that is, market mechanisms) into a new agreement, and shift
their responsibilities onto developing countries.
A 'pledge and review' system would mean that the rich
countries most responsible for the problem would only reduce
their emissions according to political pressures at home,
not according to the increasingly dire scientific realities.
There would be no internationally binding commitments, no
comparability of efforts among developed countries, and no
assurance of adequate efforts. The system of common rules
and international compliance in the Kyoto Protocol that give
meaning to these commitments would be abandoned.
Such an approach would effectively deregulate the climate
regime and if agreed to in a new treaty, would mean that a
deregulated approach is enshrined in international law.
A Durban Mandate for the Great Escape
Anyone following media reports would be forgiven for
thinking that the main issue for the Durban climate
conference is to agree on a new legally binding treaty. Rich
countries have been actively conveying their message in the
media, shaping public expectations that Durban should
deliver a new treaty, or at least a mandate for one. At the
same time, some developing countries have also been calling
for a new treaty.
The fine print, however, is that the rich countries want a
new treaty that replaces an existing one - the Kyoto
Protocol, whereas the least developed and island nations
want a new treaty that complements, and sits alongside the
Kyoto Protocol, not replaces it. These positions are
Developing countries, in other words, want to implement the
Bali Roadmap and ensure legally binding commitments under
the Kyoto Protocol, but the developed countries are seeking
to do away with all this, through a new mandate. If a new
mandate is agreed, it is unlikely the interests of poor
countries would prevail. The United States is unlikely to
sign on altogether, risking further delay and inaction.
The reality is that the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol
that make up the existing legally binding climate
architecture desperately needs implementing, not replacing.
Developed countries appear progressive by asking for a
legally binding treaty or the mandate for one, when the real
truth is that they are violating the current legally binding
regime, shifting the goalpost agreed in the Bali Roadmap,
and reneging on agreements for a second commitment period of
the Kyoto Protocol.
The call for a new mandate for a new treaty in place of the
Kyoto Protocol should be understood for what it really is -
rich countries backtracking and reneging on inconvenient
obligations, at the expense of the poor and the planet. As
it has been throughout history, the rich and powerful are
re-writing the rules in their favour.
An Elite and Corporate Led Agenda by the 1% for the 1%
Underpinning the shift in the UN climate negotiations
towards a 'deregulatory' pledge-based system are vested
interests represented in Northern industrialized countries,
international financial institutions, multinational
corporations and elites in both the North and the South.
The position of the United States in international climate
negotiations, for instance, is shaped substantially by its
failure to secure domestic climate legislation, which in
turn is the result of actions by powerful economic lobbies
including the coal, oil, automotive, metals, fertilizer,
chemical, agri-business and other special interests, and the
lobbyists and politicians they fund in Washington.
Vested interests have opposed not merely domestic
legislation and international emission reduction pledges,
but also any curbs on emissions that would affect their
interests. Some are architects of the effort to deny climate
change altogether, attacking climate scientists and limiting
public understanding of the necessity of climate action.
More than undermining the current inadequate pledges - which
could lead the world to over 5 degrees C of global warming
- they seek to stop any effective action on climate change
What Must Happen in Durban
Negotiations on further commitments for Annex I Parties have
continued since 2005 with no clear commitment by Annex I
countries that they will fulfil their legal obligations.
The time for ensuring there is no 'gap' between the first
and second periods of the Kyoto Protocol has run out - the
moment of truth has arrived. Developed countries must now
commit to a legal, not political, second commitment period
of the Protocol.
Europe must stand up and be counted as a leader among
developed countries, to join with developing countries in
calling for an outcome that increases ambition, addresses
the hard issues left off the table in Cancun, honours the
promises made in Bali, and builds on - rather than
dismantles - the climate system built since the Convention
was agreed in 1992.
Europe, which has in the past tried to give leadership where
other developed countries had been wanting, is now hedging,
hoping to benefit from the dishonourable action of Canada,
Japan, Russia, US, and others who are seeking to destroy the
Kyoto Protocol, while avoiding the blame. It is time for
Europe to be a true leader.
All developed countries must recommit to the Bali Roadmap,
which covers 100 percent of global emissions through three
- Binding cuts for Annex I countries under the Kyoto
- Comparable efforts for the United States under the
- Appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries,
supported by finance, technology and capacity.
Key Outcomes for Mitigation from Durban
- Parties must formally commit to conclude negotiations
under the Kyoto Protocol, through an amendment of its Annex
B. To ensure there is no gap between the first and second
commitment period, as legally required by the Protocol
negotiations, provisional application of the second
commitment period must be agreed, pending entry into force.
African governments have said there is 'No Plan B' on the
Kyoto Protocol. Durban must not be the burial ground of the
- Negotiations under the Protocol must close the 'mitigation
gap' between developed countries' pledges and what science
and equity require. Developed countries must show
leadership, put aside the interests of their polluting
corporations, and re-commit to an ambitious second
commitment period. Europe must lead the developed countries,
and not continue to use delaying tactics.
- Developed countries must not shift the burden to
developing countries through carbon markets, or through
using loopholes such as creative land-use accounting and
surplus allowances. Current proposals for mitigation,
markets and loopholes threaten not merely the negotiations
but the global effort to tackle climate change.
- The United States, as the only developed country non-party
to the Kyoto Protocol, must commit to do its fair share and
take on comparable efforts under the Convention, including
ambitious, legally binding, economy-wide emission reduction
- Long-term sources and scale of finance commencing in 2013
must be agreed in Durban, for both mitigation and
adaptation, and a process for determining how much finance
is 'necessary for implementation of the Convention'
including mitigation actions by developing countries.
- Finance must be provided through a Green Climate Fund that
is accountable to all countries under the Conference of
Parties that supports developing countries not private
corporations. Any 'private sector facility' is to be
These elements must be part of an ambitious package on all
issues that strengthens the global climate architecture,
serves the interests of people not polluters, and supports
the transformational change required for a more just and
safe world. The world is watching: Durban must deliver for
the 99 percent.
Africa, China call out Canada for climate betrayal
December 01, 2011
Purchasing a full page ad in the Canadian paper the Globe
and Mail, a group of African leaders and NGOs is calling on
Canada to return to the fold on climate change. Canada has
recently all-but-confirmed that after the ongoing 17th UN
Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, it will
withdraw entirely from the Kyoto Treaty. The country has
missed its targets by a long-shot, in part due to the
exploitation of its tar sands for oil, and is increasingly
viewed at climate conferences as intractable and
obstructive. In the eyes of those concerned about climate
change, Canada has gone from hero to villain. Yet notable
African activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are
"Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues
like human rights and environmental protection. Today you're
home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous
effects of climate change," the ad in the Globe and Mail
reads. "For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death
issue. By dramatically increasing Canada's global warming
pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem
worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating
drought and famine today and in the years to come."
Tar sands trouble
As the ad points out, Canada's exploitation of the tar sands
has moved from a largely Canadian issue to a global one.
Massive protests in the US, including civil disobedience
that led to the arrest of 1,252 people, effectively stalled
a pipeline that would have brought tar sands' oil from
Canada down to Texas refineries - and a global market. Now,
the EU is currently mulling action that would officially
deem tar sands' oil more environmentally destructive than
conventional oil, essentially making sale of tar sands' oil
in the EU improbable.
Extracting oil from the tar sands is both energy and water
intensive. The oil - which exists in the form of bitumen and
is mixed with clay, water, and sand - must be extracted from
the ground with hot water and upgraded by using a high
energy process. To make a single barrel of oil requires two
tons of tar sands and three barrels of water. It also
releases more greenhouse gases: the EPA estimates that
carbon emissions from tar sands is 82 percent more intensive
than conventional oil. Other sources have found lower rates,
but all agree that more carbon is released from the tar
sands than other oil reservoirs.
Canada's exploitation of the tar sands has stalled its
ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of
reducing emissions by 6 percent relative to 1990 levels as
promised, the nation's emissions have risen 17 percent.
Still, extraction from tar sands, dubbed by the industry as
'oilsands', is vociferously supported by Canada's
conservative government under Stephen Harper, and many
believe the tar sands is the number one reason why Canada
has turned its back on climate change mitigation.
Meanwhile Africa has suffered a number of debilitating
droughts over recent decades. A long drought in East Africa
led to famine this year, killing tens-of-thousands of people
and putting 12 million at risk of food insecurity.
Scientists predict that climate change will worsen
agricultural production and water security on the continent.
"It's time to draw the line," the ad concludes. "We call on
Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and
to support international action to reduce global warming
Released by a new initiative dubbed Draw the Line -supported
by Environmental Defense Canada, Equiterre, Greenpeace
Canada, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nobel Women's
Initiative, and the Sierra Club - the full-page ad is just the
most recent expression of frustration at Canada's climate
Canada sets "bad example"
Through its national news organization, China also took
umbrage against the news that Canada was planning to pull
out of Kyoto, calling the country a "bad example".
"While delegations from every country attend the Durban
climate conference to discuss a second commitment period for
the Kyoto Protocol, one can imagine the damage done by this
'rumor'," Xinhua said. "Some are angry and some are
depressed, but whatever the expression made by each
delegation, they are united in their criticism of Canada."
Canada's position has not been helped by its head
negotiator, Environment Minister Peter Kent, who has made
several statements that have drawn ire, such as referring to
funds for poor and vulnerable nations - who currently face the
worst of climate change impacts but have contributed the
least emissions - as "guilt payments". He says such countries
should "stop 'wielding the historical guilty card' and
asking for a free pass on emissions reductions just because
in the past, industrialized countries had more emissions
than the rest of the world."
So far, Kent has refused to confirm or deny the report that
Canada is withdrawing from the Kyoto treaty, but has called
signing up to Kyoto in the first place one of Canada's
At each UN Climate Summit, the Climate Action Network (CAN)
delivers daily ironic awards, dubbed the "Fossil of the Day
Awards," to those nations that most obstruct progress on
combating climate change. In the first three days, Canada
has taken home 4 out of 7 fossils.
Canada, however, is not alone in being signaled out as a bad
actor at negotiations, the U.S. is also facing wide
criticism for obstructionism.
Two years ago the U.S. was regarded as the key player on
climate change with the recent election of Barack Obama, who
promised to do what his predecessor, George W. Bush, would
not: embrace real action and international agreement on
"Now is the time to confront [climate change[ once and for
all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an
acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The
consequences, too serious," Obama said two weeks after
winning the US election in 2008.
But today, according to an open letter from 16 NGOs to the
Obama Administration, "America risks being viewed not as a
global leader on climate change but as a major obstacle to
The letter urged the U.S. to drop its "stringent
preconditions," and negotiate openly with other countries.
The U.S. has refused to discuss extending the Kyoto Treaty
and has pushed for pursuing a treaty that wouldn't go into
effect until 2020. In addition the U.S. is raising some
objections to the design of a Green Fund designed to provide
significant monies to poor and vulnerable nations, though
the fund has already been approved by nearly every other
"This is a critical meeting, and we are rapidly running out
of time to avert the worst impacts of climate change," the
NGO's letter to the Obama administration concludes.
Still the harshest criticisms remain for Canada alone: for
once it is outshining its neighbor to the south.
From bad to worse
Despite the U.S. position that waiting until 2020 for a
treaty is reasonable, recent research argues if nations are
to keep their pledge to keep global temperatures from rising
above 2 degrees Celsius, emissions must peak this decade and
fall rapidly thereafter. The International Energy Agency
(IEA) recently announced that the world had five years to
slash emissions or face dangerous climate change.
"As each year passes without clear signals to drive
investment in clean energy, the 'lock-in' of high-carbon
infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to
meet our energy security and climate goals," Fatih Birol,
IEA Chief Economist, said last month.
Meanwhile, the UN has reported that concentration of
greenhouse gases have hit a new high in the atmosphere, and
emissions levels for last year beat worse-case-scenarios.
Temperatures this year are likely be the 10th warmest on
record and the warmest ever recorded for a La Nina year.
The effects of this heat are being felt far-and-wide. This
year saw the Arctic's sea ice hit its lowest volume on
record and have its second lowest extent. Ice shelves in the
Canadian Arctic have halved in the last six years. Also with
wider recognition of the impacts of climate change on severe
weather, this year was also notable for an unusually large
amount of extreme weather events. In addition to drought and
famine in East Africa, 2011 saw massive floods in Asia and
the Americas with a record-breaking deluge in Thailand,
dubbed its worst natural disaster in history; a wide-variety
of extreme weather events in the U.S., including an extended
drought and heatwave in Texas; killer landslides in Central
and South America; as well as a below-average year for
Although few observers expect a breakthrough at Durban, with
so much at stake some are beginning to say that a miracle
breakthrough of one kind or another is absolutely essential.
Richard Black at the BBC characterizes nations as having
three different views: those that want to continue the Kyoto
treaty, those interested in jump-starting a new binding
agreement, and those wanting a bit of both, but he writes
that "the US and Canada want neither." Simply put, while
most of the world wants to move forward on combating climate
change - and are debating how best to do that - it may be that
the Canada and U.S. are simply unwilling to act.
The question then becomes do the rest move ahead without
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