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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid