Hope, doubts on whether an agreement on climate change can be reached
Over the weekend, some signs emerged that the Durban summit on climate change could produce a legally binding treaty that would be endorsed by both China and the United States, two of the largest emitters of greenhouse gas and two countries not subject to the 1997 Kyoto protocol, which is expiring.
After a week's worth of meetings at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, over the weekend sign emerged that a deal could be reached to reduce global emission of Greenhouse gases.
"Countries are now looking at how they might bring about a second commitment period and no longer if there is going to be a second commitment period," climate chief Christiana Figueres told Reuters in an interview.
This conference is being held in Durban, South Africa, and organizers hope to use it as chance to highlight the danger in Africa from climate change. Some experts believe that Africa could lose half of its agriculture production in the coming years, as the climate warms.
There seems to be no appetite to extend the 1997 Kyoto protocol, but China indicated it could agree to some legally binding agreement, which could lead the United State to come on board as well.
"We meet here at a time when green house gas concentrations in the atmosphere have never been higher. When the number of livelihoods that have been dissolved by climate change impacts have never been greater, and when the need for action has never been more compelling or more achievable," Figures said.
Jonathan Pershing, the United States' Special Envoy for Climate Change, said he was working for an agreement that the U.S. can endorse and participte in.
"And primarily, which works on the environmental problem, which means that all countries need to be in," he said.
Nearly 10,000 people are attending the summit, which continues until Dec. 10.
Richelle Seton-Rogers, a reporter with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, said she's been getting mixed signals about how the conference is going.
"These talks are not going as well as hoped, that’s just what we’ve heard from the NGOs. I’ve spoken to the Minister of the Environment, Edna Molewa, and she’s told me that the talks are still on track," she said. "But from looking at some of the faces in the plenary, and from what some of the things that have been said, there does seem to be that there is a bit of uncertainty about the Green Climate Fund."
The Green Climate Fund would send $100 billion a year from the developed world to developing nations in order to help them combat pollution. So far, with the debt crisis in Europe and the Amerian economy continuing to sputter, there seems to be little appetite to actually fund the program.
"Our Head of Delegations and our Environmental Minister ... was saying that countries can’t use the financial crisis as an excuse not to put money into the Green Climate Fund. Cash for those funds needs to be garnered from 2020 onwards," Seton-Rogers said. "At the moment, we’re just looking at the kind of framework that would surround this Green Climate Fund, and not at where the funds are actually going to come from."
The goal of the summitt is to develop procedures and restrictions that would contain the global average temperature rise to two degrees or less. Even then, Africa would be expected to see major climate changes.
There's also concern that the agreements that are in place now, even non-binding arrangements, won't even meet that stnadard.
"The European Union has expressed that the carbon-cutting targets are not sufficient. Science is saying that the targets that were put on the table in Copenhagen and that are in the Cancun agreements would put the world on check for about a four degrees Centigrade rise, which leads us into a situation where we’re dealing with possibly catastrophic climate change," Seton-Rogers said. "The two biggest emitters in the world, the USA and China, are at a bit of a standoff with each other, and if one doesn’t move, the other isn’t going to move."
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