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Transcript
Global warming – an update from Durban
The Kyoto Protocol – the agreement that commits developed countries to reducing their emissions of
greenhouse gases – runs out at the end of 2012. At the recent annual conference on climate change (this
year held in Durban, South Africa) some European Union countries, along with Switzerland and
Norway, suggested they were prepared to carry on with the Protocol. Japan, Russia and Canada
announced that they were unwilling to undertake new emission targets beyond 2012.
Since 1992, when negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol fist began, greenhouse gas emissions have risen
by 50%, and in 2010, despite a global recession, they rose by 5%.
Before the Durban conference, most countries were going to follow national targets for carbon
emissions after 2012, which would be voluntary and not legally binding. At the Durban summit, the
EU’s climate chief, Connie Hedegaard, suggested a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol after 2012. It is
now to be extended to 2017. Developing countries have been calling for a continuation for a number of
years. However, the EU wanted all economies, not just MEDCs, to sign up to a road map (to be
completed by 2015) that would eventually lead to a legally binding treaty by 2020.
China (who was blamed at the 2009 summit for its stubbornness in working towards a new deal) also
called for a continuation of the Protocol after 2012. China argues that although its carbon emissions are
increasing, this is due to the manufacture of goods destined for MEDCs. In China’s latest five year
economic plan, there are plans to reduce significantly greenhouse gas per unit of economic output. In
addition, it also plans a huge increase in renewable energy.
The Durban Agreement
The Durban Agreement has reopened the debate about a legally binding global agreement. Countries
now have four years to decide how far and how fast they can cut their carbon emissions. World
governments, including LEDCs, have committed themselves to reaching a global agreement to reduce
greenhouse gases. This agreement would come in force
from 2020. In contrast, the Kyoto Protocol only included
MEDCs, and the climate change summits at Copenhagen
(2009) and Cancun, Mexico (2010) were not legally
binding. Legally binding treaties are more difficult for
politicians to ignore.
Negotiations have been very slow – many countries have
vested interests and many countries (and companies)
wield considerable economic and political power.
However, to avoid global warming rising over 2°C over
current temperatures, carbon emissions will need to fall
from c. 44 billion tones in 2020 to below 35 billion tones
in 2030 and below 20 billion tones by 2050.
© Pearson Education Ltd 2011. For more information about the Pearson Baccalaureate series please visit
www.pearsonbacconline.com
The US special envoy for climate change, Todd Stern, said that much preparatory work would need to
be done even before negotiations began. The difficulty of reaching an agreement between China, India,
the USA, EU and developing countries is immense. LEDCs insist that MEDCs bear most of the blame
for climate change and should bear the financial burden of addressing it.
The scale of the task is daunting. The EU will need to cut its carbon intensity (the amount of carbon
dioxide released as a proportion of energy produced) by 5% a year until 2050. When France expanded
its nuclear power in the 1990s, it achieved a 4% pa (per annum) reduction. The UK switch from coal to
natural gas only resulted in a 3% reduction.
A controversial issue is historic emissions. MEDCs started burning fossil fuels earlier and are responsible
for most of the CO2 already in the atmosphere. Some EU countries have made attempts to reduce their
emissions. Another issue is that some countries have large forests capable of absorbing CO2. Another is
that the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), by which MEDCs offset their carbon emissions by
paying for projects that reduce carbon emissions in LEDCs, are trading near an all time low.
The Indian Environment Minister insisted that equity was vital. This would need to take into account
the need of LEDCs to take people out of poverty, population size and historic emissions. Money is a
big factor. LEDCs have been pledged $100 billion by 2020 to cut emissions and cope with the effects
of climate change – in an era of recession and cutbacks, the $100 billion might not be readily
forthcoming.
Another potential spanner in the works is if the USA elects a Republican President at the end of 2012.
If so, a deal may be very difficult to negotiate. However, if Barak Obama is re-elected he may well
want to achieve a global climate deal as part of his legacy.
Canada jumps
Just one day after committing to the new road map, Canada pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol altogether.
Canada’s move was denounced by many countries, including China. Under Kyoto, Canada was
committed to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 6% in 2012, compared with 1990 levels. However,
owing to exploitation of lucrative tar sands, its emissions have risen by 30%. Its oil tar sands are the
second largest oil reserve in the world and they create heavier carbon emissions than crude oil. Canada
would have to pay billions in CDM to meet its Kyoto target in 2012. It would have to transfer $14
billion to buy carbon permits from other countries.
Questions
1. What is the Clean Development Mechanism?
2. How does the Durban Agreement differ from the Kyoto Protocol and from the Copenhagen and
Cancun summits?
3. Why has Canada left the Kyoto Protocol?
4. In what ways do MEDCs and LEDCs blame each other for emissions of CO2?
© Pearson Education Ltd 2011. For more information about the Pearson Baccalaureate series please visit
www.pearsonbacconline.com
Suggested answers
1. Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the process by which MEDCs offset their carbon
emissions by paying for projects that reduce carbon emissions in LEDCs.
2. The Durban Agreement differs from the Kyoto Protocol in that it includes MEDCs and LEDCs
rather than just MEDCs; it differs from other summits in that it is working towards a legally binding
treaty.
3. Canada left the Kyoto Protocol because it was unable to fulfill its obligations. It was due to reduce
its greenhouse emissions by 6% in 2012, but its emissions have risen by 30%. Canada would have to
pay some $14 in CDM to meet its Kyoto target in 2012.
4. MEDCs often claim that it is rapid industrial growth in China and India, in particular, that is fueling
climate change at present. In contrast, LEDCs insist that MEDCs bear most of the blame for climate
change and should bear the financial burden of addressing it.
© Pearson Education Ltd 2011. For more information about the Pearson Baccalaureate series please visit
www.pearsonbacconline.com