The United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and members of the European Union have all revealed that there will be no treaty signed at the international climate change talks coming up in Durban, South Africa. The most developed nations of the world say they cannot even guarantee an agreement over how to combat climate change by 2016. Furthermore, if any new legally binding agreement over reducing emissions is agreed upon, the earliest date it will come into effect will be sometime in 2020.
At the last climate talks held in Copenhagen in 2009, many governments agreed that a new global climate agreement would be signed by 2012. The world’s leading economies also assured developing countries that emissions from burning fossil fuels would be limited, but this had not been the case. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently stated that last year, despite the world economy suffering the worst recession for over 80 years, the burning of fossil fuels grew by over 5%.
The end of the Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol has helped to ensure that countries around the world reduce emissions, and it was previously hoped that a second similar treaty would be agreed upon and signed to coincide with the date that the Kyoto Protocol expires. Little progress was made at the Copenhagen talks in 2009, and no new legally binding accord was achieved.
Now time is running out, because the commitment period for that treaty will finish at the end of 2012. If no new agreement will come into effect until 2020, there will be an eight-year gap with no binding commitment between countries to reduce emissions.
Ahead of the next international meeting on climate change it is now already apparent that there will be no binding treaty signed. Developing nations, often responsible for much smaller amounts of emissions than industrialized countries, have been angered by the news that there will be an eight-year delay in getting another legally binding agreement to tackle climate change. This will surely raise tensions at the upcoming talks in Durban.
Hacked emails released again
To further compound the situation, a batch of stolen e-mails written by scientists at the University of East Anglia in Britain and the US Climatic Research Unit have been released by a hacker. Some of the emails have already been confirmed as authentic, and show correspondence between researchers looking at climate change. It is believed that the person or people responsible are trying to undermine the efforts being made to tackle climate change by raising doubts about key arguments in the climate change debate.
In 2009, shortly before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, a similar batch of hacked emails was released, which fuelled quarrels between climate change advocates and climate-skeptics. The incident was dubbed ‘Climategate,’ and it is feared that the new emails recently released could cause a similar reaction at the 2011 Durban talks. It is essential that productive talks be held so that a new treaty can be discussed and worked on, but the new emails could destabilize the conference.
Insufficient commitment to reduce emissions
Other recent news also gives a bleak outlook for the reduction of fossil fuel emissions over the coming years. In the UK there are fears that the exploitation of shale gas found under Lancashire will stop the government from meeting targets to cut emissions. Additionally, a further reliance on fossil fuels for energy could see less investment in sources of renewable energy, which would further detract researchers in the field.
There are also concerns that emerging nations like China and India may be reluctant to agree to any legally binding reductions in carbon emissions because of fear of damage to their fledging economies. Developing nations often perceive the climate change problem as being a problem caused by developed, industrialized countries. In that respect, the opinion sometimes held is that developed countries should be the ones to reduce their emissions, while developing nations can continue to burn fossil fuels to increase their prosperity. Unfortunately this creates distrust at a time when there should be no delay in reaching an agreement about how to tackle the problem.
Talks about climate change have been going on for years, but now the vocabulary used is starting to change. Instead of climate change, more charities and NGOs have started labeling the situation as ‘climate crisis’. If world leaders continue to avoid tackling the problem head on, this term could soon change too, and it may well be an impending climate catastrophe that is discussed in 2020.
Written by Izzy Woods. Izzy Woods is a conscientious freelancer with published work all over the Internet. She tries to live an eco-friendly life herself, from her electric car to her organic latex mattress.