Durban Debrief. A Win for Obama?
December 13, 2011
I’m inclined to believe that the apparent result of the climate change summit in Durban, South Africa, might turn out to be a very big deal. Someday. Maybe.
After the meeting ended Sunday, initial reaction ranged from “Historic Breakthrough: The Planet Is Saved” to “Tragic Failure: The Planet Is Doomed.”
My conclusion is that for now, at least, the conceptual advance made in Durban is as good as it gets.
This advance is, potentially, huge: For the first time, officials of the nations that are the biggest carbon emitters — China, the United States and India — have agreed to negotiate legally binding restrictions.
Under the old Kyoto Protocol framework, which for now remains largely in effect, rapidly industrializing nations refused to be constricted by limits that would stunt their development. The United States declined to sign on to the Kyoto agreement as long as China, India, Brazil and other rising economic giants got a pass.
This meant that while European nations worked to meet emissions targets — or, in some cases, pretended to do so — the most important sources of carbon were unconstrained. When Kyoto was adopted, China was well behind the United States as an emitter; now it’s far ahead. India recently passed Russia to move into third place.
The Durban talks seemed likely to go nowhere until the Chinese delegate, Xie Zhenhua, announced that Beijing was willing to consider a legally binding framework. With China now responsible for fully 23 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, this was an enormous step forward.
Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) — The U.S., long accused of blocking progress in international climate talks, is winning a two-decade old debate about how to curtail global warming.
The decision yesterday by China and India to move toward an agreement with the “legal force” to limit their fossil fuel emissions marked the first step toward treating developing nations the same as industrial ones when it comes to reducing pollution.
President Barack Obama, and George W. Bush before him, had pushed for that parity after the Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gases for industrial nations. Developing nations such as China and India had no commitments under Kyoto.
“The Durban climate talks have brought us to an important moment where all nations will be covered in the same roadmap toward a long-term solution for the climate crisis — the greatest challenge facing our planet,” House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
The Bloomberg article is worth reading at length here.