News / Africa

Durban Climate Conference: What's at Stake?

The marine and coastal systems of the Seychelles are threatened by the effects of climate change, including increasing extremes of weather , rising sea levels and rising temperatures.
The marine and coastal systems of the Seychelles are threatened by the effects of climate change, including increasing extremes of weather , rising sea levels and rising temperatures.
Gabe Joselow

Representatives from nearly 200 nations are gathering in Durban, South Africa for an annual United Nations conference on climate change. And while most parties agree on the need to tackle the issue, there remain vast disagreements over the methods. 

One of the most pressing issues at the 17th annual Conference of Parties, known as COP17, is what to do with the soon-to-expire Kyoto Protocol.

This was a legally-binding pact between nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least five percent below 1990 levels.

The landmark 1997 agreement also established mechanisms allowing rich countries to offset their own pollution by investing in cleaner technology in poor nations.

A major topic of discussion at COP17 will be whether to sign on for a second commitment period.

Christina Figueres, the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, says delegates are looking for a middle ground.

“Our sense is that there is enough awareness that this is the year to make that decision.  They have actually, over the past six months, governments have come to the realization that this is not a yes or no answer.”

The other options to extending the Kyoto Protocol are agreements made at the last two climate conferences in Copenhagen, Denmark and then last year in Cancun, Mexico.

There, countries agreed to new strategies to promote clean energy, including a $100 billion-a-year fund for developing nations and non-binding emissions limits.

Figueres says those measures still fall short.

“While those are efforts that go way beyond the Kyoto Protocol emissions reductions, they are insufficient," she said. "It is only 60 percent of the emission reductions needed to keep the increase of temperature to below two degrees Centigrade.”

Scientists have warned for years of the possible dangers of allowing average global temperatures to rise two degrees above pre-industrial levels. After that point, the Earth is at greater risk of floods, droughts and the loss of critical life systems.

Scientists blame carbon emissions as the leading cause of man-made global warming. So, it will be no surprise if all eyes at COP17 are on the United States and China - the world's two biggest polluters.

The United States never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, and has insisted that any legally binding agreement include all parties.

The top U.S. negotiator, Todd Sterns, denied that the U.S. is involved in a stalemate with China to act first.

“But I've also said with respect to a potential future legal regime, we wouldn't do it if all the major economies weren't also a part of it in quite a full way, so in that sense we would need to see that action from others," said Stern. "But I don't think it's that kind of - where we're waiting for China and China, well I can't tell you whether China is waiting for us or not, I can only speak for the United States, but I really don't see it that way.”

The United States does support the agreements finalized at COP16 in Cancun. Even though the terms are not legally binding, Stern says “nobody takes it lightly.”

Environmentalists are worried about the global consequences if countries cannot reach an agreement in Durban.

Ferrial Adam, the climate campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, says the United States, and it's reluctance to commit to emissions cuts, is a major obstacle.

“We're quite sure we're not going to achieve major agreements or a binding deal as we'd like to see," said Adam. "And that's very concerning because climate change is not going to wait for COP 18 or 19 or 20. These decisions need to be made now because the impacts of climate change are upon us.”

Adam added that governments need to “listen to the people more than the polluters.”

And there will be lots of people at the Durban conference, which opens Monday and runs for 12 days.  According to the U.N., more than 24,000 people took part in the Copenhagen conference last year, including more than 3,000 members of the media.

Environmental groups and non-governmental-organizations will be sending thousands of observers to watch over the negotiations in Durban.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid