Ten Minutes to Placate the World

The Durban 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) finished up over this past weekend. The talks were supposed to end December 9, but were extended two days longer due to gridlock, making this the longest U.N. Conference on Climate Change meeting in history.

Despite Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement was reached by China, the U.S. and India to cut emissions.

India threatened to walk out of the talks last week, protesting against European Union plans to force all countries to cut carbon emissions as part of a legally binding treaty similar to a regime the E.U. has had in place for years.

India’s initial reaction to the West’s proposal was best summed up by India’s environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan:
“How do I give a blank cheque signing away the livelihood rights of 1.2 billion members of our population? What about common but differentiated responsibility; what about the effort to shift the burden to countries who have not contributed to the problem?”
A last-minute huddle at the conference, now being referred to as “10 minutes to save the world” was all that prevented total failure in Durban. New emissions cuts still won’t be enacted until 2020.

The argument between the parties was based on historical greenhouse emissions. Developed countries, who are responsible for the lion’s share of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, don’t want a disproportionate burden of reduction. Developing countries (i.e. India) want to be able to emit at a rate that will allow them to industrialize competitively.

In what 350.orgcalled “risky, creative, powerful activism” youth groups and African rights coalitions staged protests and civil disobedience throughout the city during the conference.

Greenpeace activists protest in Durban

350.org

The “Durban road map” as proposed by the E.U. is still too weak to stop temperatures rising above the “danger point” of 2C because it does not set tough targets for emissions cuts or a quick enough timetable.

According to the International Energy Agency we Earthlings are about to build enough fossil-fueled power stations, factories and inefficient buildings in the next five years that the resulting global warming will have catastrophic and irreversible effects.

So what was the point here? It’s starting to look like the smart people are going to have to get us ready for the coming disaster that will be life on Earth for billions of people.

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About Joe Doolen

I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. My aim is to write on science and international issues with a focus on environmental policy and justice. Topics range from local and domestic politics to international communications and culture, and anything cool about science really!!
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