Climate Change Can Kicked Down the Road

The United Nations finally concluded its Climate Change meeting in Durban, South Africa at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday, a day and a half late. Delegates did not create a new treaty to legally bind nations to limit greenhouse gas emissions to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Nor did they approve a global tax scheme to fill the Green Climate fund. Nonetheless, developing (poor) nations, called G-77+China, took home the spoils because some developed (rich) nations voluntarily extended their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and voluntarily granted start-up funds to the Green Climate Fund.

Todd Stern, head of the American delegation, called the new Durban Platform, "A very significant package, none of us likes everything in it. Believe me, there is plenty the United States is not thrilled about." Stewart Maginnis, of the radical environmental group International Union for Conservation Nature, was a bit more upbeat in his analysis stating, “Steps have been laid out for a new agreement to be put in place by 2015. A new spirit of compromise spanning the developed and developing countries is an encouraging step forward.”

The final Durban Platform produced by the 194-party conference created a new Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action to begin work immediately on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol which will supposedly put all countries under the same legal regime enforcing commitments to limit greenhouse gases. It is to be presented for approval by 2015 and to take effect by 2020 at the latest.

The G-77+China negotiated forcefully to continue the Kyoto Protocol so that they can continue to profit from mostly European nations (the U.S. Senate has not ratified the KP) that offset their greenhouse gas emissions by moving industries to developing nations, primarily to India and China.

India led the G-77+China efforts calling “equity” the “centerpiece of the climate change debate." Jayanthi Natarajan, the Indian minister of environment and forests, added that her country would "never be intimidated by threats”, expressing her disapproval of the notion that ALL nations be part of a new binding treaty.

China was a bold supporter of the G-77+China position that only rich nations be legally bound by greenhouse gas emissions limits. When the EU proposed language to put every country under equally binding limits, the Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua waved his arms and yelled, "We are doing whatever we should do. We are doing things you are not doing. What qualifies you to say things like this?”

Even language calling for “a protocol, another legal instrument, or a legal outcome” was replaced with, “an agreed outcome with legal force,” to accommodate the G-77+China. The G-77+China also fought for and won funding for the Green Climate Fund, established at last year’s meeting along with a 40-member Transitional Committee that was to design a global tax scheme to fill the GCF. Durban delegates, however, stopped short of approving a tax scheme; instead, they created a 20-member Standing Committee composed of equal numbers of representatives from developed and developing countries to overview and assist those who meet annually at the Climate Change meetings. Developing countries are to begin accessing the GCF in 2012.

The World Bank has oversight of the GCF for three years, but the new Standing Committee will become the intermediary between the COP and the World Bank to assuage the angst of environmental extremists who do not trust the World Bank because it has financed coal-fired power plants in developing countries, which they consider wholly unacceptable. A work program on long-term finance was also created to analyze options for more resources from a variety of sources to meet future escalating demands for the GCF.

Next year’s Climate Change meeting in Qatar is to build on these commitments, preceded by a meeting called Rio+20 in June 2012, the UN Sustainable Development Conference. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has high hopes for Rio+20, stating, "We hope to chart a new path for development -- sustainable development.... You know the threats as well as I: climate change, environmental destruction, growing scarcities of essential resources -- water, food, energy, the clean air we breathe....We cannot afford to fight over religion, race, or any of the other categories that separate us.”

The global economic crisis worked in the favor of most Americans who oppose new taxes, global or otherwise. Americans who support free markets and clean dependable energy, and oppose the economically destructive and environmentally ineffective legally binding greenhouse gas emissions limits, won a temporary stay on a new treaty and a new global tax.

We will see what happens at Rio+20 next June and in Qatar next December.


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