The 2011 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began with guarded optimism last week in Durban, South Africa. Elsewhere, with outright pessimism, largely due to what was widely viewed as a failure in Copenhagen two years ago to make any progress in preventing greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Union nations proposed a compromise deal on Sunday called the “Durban Roadmap.”
The first phase of the Kyoto Protocol , signed in 1997 and enforced since 2005, is set to expire in 2012.
Although the proposal has gained wide support, heavy criticism persists, with less developed nations calling the deal much worse than Kyoto. India stood alone in drawing a “red line”, leaving officials to believe the talks may have been put in reverse by the EU deal.
The question of whether the “roadmap” or the criticism of it is a cynical illustrates the demoralizing truth about greenhouse gas emission reduction.
The Kyoto Protocol was largely neutered when the U.S. withdrew in 2001.
It was apparently very simple:
The only sure thing to come out of Durban has been no secret. The new conservative Canadian government will completely withdraw from Kyoto.
“We’re not looking for a mechanism in which we would have an obligation to reduce emissions of a legal form and the major emerging economies would have a voluntary program,” U.S. deputy climate change envoy Jonathan Pershing spouted in an effort to portray a lack of equity in the 1997 accord.
According to Dr. Mutlu Ozdogan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies, developing countries in Africa, low-lying and island nations (e.g. Bangladesh and Maldives) are seeing some of the worst effects of climate change. “The U.S. and Canada are likely to see some loss of arable land in the Western plains, but nothing with the scale and speed of what we are seeing in the global South,” said Ozdogan.
Business interests have long held undue influence in Western politics, but an an honest effort in the late 20th century by the U.N. to halt global warming appears to have fallen short. The third world has made symbolic gestures by following Kyoto, waiting for us to lead the way. However, without Canada and China, even this delicate dance may soon end.
“’Climate change’ is less frightening than ’global warming.’ … While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge”