The emergency just has to wait until 2020

Attending the United Nations Global Climate Conference (COP17) between 28 November and 9 December, GERES defended its vision of clean development and solidarity in response to the looming disaster of climate upheavals.  The delegation monitored the negotiations closely and now presents its technical comments on the outcome of the summit.

After two weeks of negotiation, the 194 countries meeting in South Africa reached agreement on a new deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol which should be ready by 2015 but only come into force in 2020.  We are still a long way away from the comprehensive, legally binding agreement that would make it possible to meet the initial target set in Copenhagen of restricting global warming to  2°C.

The decision leaves a bitter taste: “We keep on postponing the deadlines.  It’s no good closing our eyes, the time has come to acknowledge the ineffectiveness of the Convention.  We may try to play for time, but circumstances will be different in 10 years, heads of state will have changed and it will be even more difficult to implement an international agreement. Meanwhile, we are not combating climate change efficiently”, says Marina Gavaldão, Technical Director of GERES Climate Change Unit, regretfully.

We keep on postponing the deadlines despite the fact that the political context will have changed again in 10 years time.”

The agreement does not heed the latest scientific warnings about trends in global warming.  International negotiations to reach a global agreement seem quite simply destined to fail.

The European Union has certainly taken a firmer stand this year but remains extremely isolated, receiving support only from African countries and members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in the front line of climate change.  The general impression is that the rest of the world is playing for time.

China, now the major global emitter in terms of overall volume, knows that one day it will have to join the group of countries obliged to take the lead in controlling emissions.  India, which refuses to accept classification in the category of newly industrialized countries, fought to the end against the idea of entering into a legally binding agreement.  The United States, sticking to their guns, also played for time. “COP17 illustrates the divided world in which we live, where everyone defends their own interests”, says Marina Gavaldão.

“The results are mixed.  We were no more than a breath away from breakdown of the UN system of consensus between 194 countries, reports Swan Fauveaud, head of the Climate Change Unit.  “It really shows the lack of political will to meet the climate change challenge.” 

Technical discussions suspended

Technical discussions have not advanced greatly, apart from the new Green Fund for which funding arrangements have yet to be confirmed.  Beyond an extremely vague agreement on the roadmap, the essential policy decisions have been postponed to the next climate conference to be held in Qatar in 2012.

GERES welcomes the continuation of carbon markets through extension of the Kyoto Protocol.”

In Durban, all eyes were on the Kyoto Protocol which had, amongst other things, enabled mechanisms to be put in place to encourage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. A further extension of this commitment was agreed by Europe and some other countries until 2020. GERES welcomes the news and will continue to fight for better access to clean energy for the poorest communities.

However, GERES has to sound a warning concerning the decision to include Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the mechanisms.  This sequestration technology supposedly helps to reduce CO2 emissions and was taken up in Durban.   “It’s a false solution that is like looking for a bowl instead of turning off the tap, as Swan Fauveaud stresses. “We are not taking action at source.  Moreover, capturing and compressing  CO2 are very energy-intensive and potentially hazardous activities.”  

At the current pace of commitment, the world is heading for a rise of between 3 and 6°C”

The total lack of will on the part of States to work together to limit global warming to 2°C by 2100  in relation to preindustrial levels is frightening.  At the current pace of commitment, the rise in temperature is likely to be between 3 and 6°C.  The consequences for countries in the South will be irreparable and the associated costs in terms of adaptation will be astronomical.  In Durban, as in Cancun and Copenhagen, the climate emergency went unheard.

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