Q&A: Durban COP17 climate talks

Q&A: Durban COP17 climate talks

Environment ministers will gather in Durban in late November to continue efforts towards a global climate deal. What can we expect from the talks?

COP17 in Durban : The PACJA 'Trans African Climate Caravan of Hope'

A local artist shows a Burundi PACJA logo before the launch of the Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) ‘Trans African Climate Caravan of Hope’, which is a climate change campaign. The caravan finished in Durban, South Africa, on 27 November, for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP17. Photograph: James Akena/PACJA

What is the Durban COP17 climate change summit?

From 28 November to 9 December, environment ministers and negotiators from 195 countries will meet in Durban, South Africa, for theUN climate change conference to advance efforts towards a global agreement cutting carbon emissions. The Kyoto protocol, the world’s only binding climate agreement, expires at the end of 2012, and talks inCopenhagen and Cancún in the past two years have failed to replace or renew it.

What happens beyond 2012 is one of the key issues for the conference, held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre. Unlike two years ago when thousands of diplomats, advisers, campaigners and journalists attended COP15 in Copenhagen, along with heads of state including Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, Durban is expected to be less high level. Few heads of state are expected to attend.

What does COP17 stand for?

COP17 is the official name of the Durban summit. Two decades ago, at the 1992 Earth summit in Rio de Janeiro, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), to co-operatively consider what to do against global temperature increases and the resulting climate ch
ange, and to cope with its impacts. The highest body of this UNFCC is the conference of the Parties (COP), which comprises representatives from 195 countries and meets once a year since 1995 – this year is the 17th conference.

What was the outcome of the past climate conferences?

Although the science of global warming is clear and solutions are provided, there is little progress in the UN climate talks. The malaise began in 2009, when there was big hope that world leaders would agree on a binding post Kyoto protocol in Copenhagen. But after long nights of negotiation they only produced a two-page accord saying future temperature rises should be limited to 2C. It was merely “recognised” by governments, not formally adopted under the UN process. Industrialised countries promised to pay developing countries for keeping their forests to reduce emissions, rising to $100bn (£63bn) annually by 2020.

What are the hopes for the Durban meeting?

There seems little possibility that the summit will produce an emissions reduction agreement, meaning the world will soon lack any binding CO2 targets when Kyoto’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. At best, diplomats will agree on other details, such as a “green climate fund” designed to channel billions from wealthy to poor countries to fund environmentally friendly economic development there. But with rich countries facing a financial crisis it is unclear where the money should come from.

What are the four great debates in detail?

Kyoto protocol: The only agreement committing rich countries to reduce emissions is the Kyoto protocol, whose first commitment period ends next year. Japan and Russia, and possibly Canada and Australia, do not want a second period and back American plans for a system of voluntary targets and pledges. Most developing countries fear that this would allow rich countries to emit more and are fighting to save the agreement.

Likelihood of agreement: 2/10

Emissions: The US, backed by EU and most rich countries, are determined to get China and developing countries to commit to deeper cuts. They want to hold temperatures to a rise of 2C, but are strongly opposed by more than 100 developing countries who argue this would be fatal and who point out pledges for cuts made so far by the rich would result in a 4C rise. “1.5 to stay alive” is their cry.

Likelihood of agreement 1/10

Money: Rich countries have pledged to provide $100bn a year after 2020 for poor countries to adapt to climate change. But who decides how it is spent, who administers the proposed fund, and whether the money comes from public or private sources is still being debated.

Likelihood of agreement: 7/10

Forests:
 An ambitious scheme to protect tropical forests in return for money generated mostly by carbon credits could be finalised. But forested countries are some of the most corrupt and doubts remain on safeguards for people who depend on trees for their livelihoods.

Likelihood of agreement: 7/10

Who are the players to watch out for?

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC. She said recently: “A great task lies before us in Durban. It can be the next essential step in a global effort against climate change. Durban can, Durban must capture this global momentum for change.”

Edna MolewaSouth Africa‘s chief delegate and environment minister. She said: “South Africa is carrying the hopes and aspirations of Africa and the developing world to succeed in keeping the Kyoto protocol as part of future climate regime, as we negotiate an outcome of the negotiations under the conventions.”

Connie Hedegaard, EU climate action commissioner. She said: “Let me be very clear, we believe in the European Union it has taken years and years and years to agree at conference after conference on a very, very, very big set of complicated rules. So one should not think that it’s easy just to take away everything we would call the Kyoto system.”

Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation. He said: “Developed countries outside the protocol ought to define their emission reduction commitment, and their commitment should be comparable to those of signatory countries.”

Todd Stern, chief US. negotiator, said that the United States would insist that any long-range commitment “fully applies to all significant countries”.

Jorge Argüello, chair of the powerful G77 and China coalition of 131 countries. He said: “The climate change process is too crucial to the survival of humanity and the dignity of each of us, it is sad to see some parties using it just as a toy in a promotional agenda. The African leaders have expressed in different fora that Durban can not become the grave of the Kyoto protocol, and we are completely supportive of that ambition.”

Occupy Durban. Diplomats from some developing countries may “occupy” Durban by staging sit-ins and boycotts over the lack of urgency in the talks if they follow a call by the former president of Costa Rica for vulnerable countries to refuse to leave the talks until “substantial” progress has been made.

What will happen after Durban?

Countries will meet in either South Korea or Qatar for COP18 in late November 2012 – the winning country will be decided at Durban, either by consensus or – a first in the UNFCCC’s history – by a vote. But despite agreement on a deal to cut emissions previously being expected by 2013, rich countries are now understood to be pushing for a deal to be agreed no earlier than 2015 or 2016, to come into force by 2020. At the end of 2012, if nothing is agreed at Durban, the first phase of the Kyoto protocol will expire, leaving the world with no legally binding international deal to cut emissions.

Advertisements

Climate change: are we all in this together?

Climate change: are we all in this together?

With the Kyoto emissions agreements running out next year, a sense of urgency hangs over the UN climate change talks in Durban, says Geoffrey Lean.

Climate change: are we all in this together?; Climate activists erected a symbolic wind turbine on the Durban beach yesterday; AFP/Getty Images

Climate activists erected a symbolic wind turbine on the Durban beach yesterday  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Yesterday morning South Africa’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, ceremonially walked along a 3km blue line in the coastal city of Durban. It might have been more appropriate if he had used a tightrope.

The line through the streets showed where the Indian Ocean would reach if global warming raises sea levels, as many scientists expect, by a metre in this century – a reminder that most of the world’s great cities face inundation if it is not brought under control. The country’s environment minister, Edna Molewa, also on the walk, pointed out that, in Africa alone, 70 million people and nearly a third of the continent’s coastal infrastructure could be flooded out by 2080.

The stunt heralded today’s opening in Durban of the latest bid by the world’s governments to reach agreement on how to tackle climate change. Making any progress will rely – as ever at these giant, high-risk meetings – on pulling off a balancing act worthy of Blondin high above the Niagara Falls.

In Copenhagen two years ago, despite high expectations of success, heads of state barely made it across intact. Another meeting in Cancun last year, though expected to fail, was something of a triumph. But many predict that the world will finally fall off the wire in Durban, to take its chances in the turbulent waters below.

For the South African city may well be where the crunch comes. Cancun – though it did achieve some real progress – partly succeeded through postponing the big decisions until now. Though there has also since been forward movement on some of the smaller issues, the fundamental division – on what form any new agreement should take – remains as wide as ever. And the only existing internationally agreed controls on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – run out next year.

It’s not that the need for international action is receding, quite the reverse. Evidence of the effects of global warming continues to mount, not least – as Sir David Attenborough will point out next week at the end of his Frozen Planet series – at the poles.

In September, Arctic sea ice almost equalled its lowest-ever extent, reached in 2007, sticking at levels scientists had not expected to witness until 2050 – and the British Antarctic Survey points out that for the first time in at least the last 12,000 years ice shelves are retreating at both ends of the Earth simultaneously.

Moreover, despite the new release of emails from the University of East Anglia, the science continues to strengthen. Last month preliminary results from a giant study – led by a climate sceptic and partly funded by the even more sceptical Koch brothers – found that world land temperatures were rising just as most scientists have said, demolishing one of the contrarians’ main contentions. And 10 days ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after the first comprehensive study of the subject, warned that global warming would in future increase droughts, floods and fierce storms.

Worse, the world’s emissions of greenhouse gases, instead of falling back, are not only increasing but accelerating. In 2010, figures released this month reveal, the amount of CO2 released reached 33.51 billion tonnes, compared to 31.61 billion the year before: the jump of almost six per cent is thought to be the highest ever, even though much of the world is in recession. Similarly, concentrations in the atmosphere are not only at a new record, but are rising faster than ever.

Experts broadly agree that this must be reversed during this decade if there is to be any chance of keeping the eventual temperature increase below 2C, the highest level believed to be tolerable. Indeed, the normally cautious International Energy Agency (IEA) says that the world has only five years in which to act.

There are, let it be said, some signs of hope. Over the last two years, 86 countries – almost equally split between developed and developing ones – have made formal pledges to curb emissions. China’s latest five-year plan includes ambitious targets for reducing the amount of carbon released for each unit of production. Australia has agreed a carbon tax. California has adopted an “emissions trading” scheme.

Indonesia and Brazil are tackling deforestation, the largest source of CO2 releases after burning fossil fuels. And many businesses are cutting their emissions radically. If all the pledges are met in full – a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report concluded last week – the world would achieve almost half the reductions needed by 2020, and the rest could be made by technically available measures at no great cost.

There has also been progress on agreeing some measures that would form part of a climate treaty, like a scheme to compensate countries who decide to conserve, rather than cut down, their forests. And until recently it looked as if there might even be agreement on one of the really big outstanding issues, how to set up a $100 billion-a-year fund to help poor countries fight climate change. But at the last minute, the United States and Saudi Arabia refused to sign, jeopardising the whole plan and souring prospects for Durban.

But the really difficult issue is bound up with the future of the Kyoto Protocol. This only binds developed countries to reduce emissions: developing ones have been allowed to go on increasing theirs. It made sense when agreed 14 years ago: industrialised countries were, currently and historically, the big polluters, while developing ones needed help to tackle poverty. But the world has changed.

In 1997, China lagged far behind the United States and the EU as an emitter; now it has overtaken them. Thanks to its huge population, its emissions per capita are still only a quarter of US levels, but the IEA expects them to exceed those in the EU by 2020. And India’s contribution is also growing fast.

Now Japan, Canada and Russia insist they will not accept new commitments under the Protocol when the present ones expire next year – and the United States, which has never subscribed to it, says it will not agree to anything that does not include all major economies. But China, India and other developing nations are insisting on continuing it: though often undertaking quite radical action at home, they refuse to be bound by internationally agreed targets, at least for now.

Britain is leading attempts to square this seemingly intractable circle, trying to get agreement on a mark-two Kyoto on condition that China and India agree eventually to participate in a new universal treaty. The bid – spearheaded by Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary – offers the best hope of success.

If there is no such agreement, many countries may turn their back on the negotiations altogether; indeed, some already suggest that the solution is to encourage governments to undertake voluntary commitments like those already made over the past couple of years. The trouble is that there is no guarantee that these will be fulfilled, or that future governments will not scrap them. It greatly increases the risk that the world will not act in time.

Even success in Durban, however, will not produce a treaty soon. The best hope is that the conference might agree a negotiating timetable that would finalise one by 2015: even then it is expected to take some years to come into effect while enough nations formally ratify it. That could be too late to start action.

Yet, if a legally binding treaty were in prospect, there is a good chance that governments and businesses will start making appropriate changes ahead of its coming into force, seeking first-mover advantage. And tackling other causes of global warming – such as soot, ozone and methane pollution – could buy time, as much as 40 years according to another new UNEP report.

The best chance for Durban is a combination of these approaches, continuing to encourage voluntary action, while setting a timetable for a new universal treaty and keeping the Kyoto Protocol for the EU countries – who are ready to abide by it – and as many others as possible. That is, indeed, quite a balancing act, but it could keep the world on the wire.

Japan’s youth turn to rural areas seeking a slower life

Japan’s youth turn to rural areas seeking a slower life

Sayo, JapanJapan’s farmers are mainly elderly – but some young people are joining their ranks

Related Stories

The bright lights of the big city have been a draw for decades, pulling people into Tokyo from the countryside.

But for some young Japanese, the city with its skyscrapers and neon lights is losing its appeal.

Like millions of others from her generation Megumi Sakaguchi cannot find a permanent job, just contracts.

Temporary workers now make up a third of the workforce – up from fewer than a fifth in the mid-1980s – and a greater proportion of them are young.

Generation Asia graphic

The certainty of the job-for-life tradition enjoyed by earlier generations has passed her by.

“I never know if I’m going to lose my job,” she says. “Financially my anxiety levels are very high.

“In the morning during the rush hour when I’m getting off the train, the way people behave, they are almost inhuman,” she adds.

So she has decided it is time for a change.

One weekend in October Megumi Sakaguchi joined a bus tour through the Japanese countryside.

Like her fellow passengers, who were also from the cities, she was getting a taste of what life would be like as a farmer – trying out working the land for a day.

Start Quote

Megumi Sakaguchi

I know I will enjoy my life much more in touch with my community – here you even talk to strangers”

Megumi Sakaguchi

Excursions like this around apple orchards and greenhouses full of strawberry plants, talking to farmers in their fields, take place pretty much every week somewhere in rural Japan.

They are organised and paid for by local authorities which are desperate to repopulate the countryside.

After years of young people heading for the cities the average farmer in Japan is now 65.8 years old and that figure is rising steadily.

But now some are considering making the journey back.

“There are more people that want to be farmers now, and the numbers are increasing,” says Naoko Maruyama, a local government official who uses a website to attract potential recruits.

“More people from the city want a rural life. Here in Nagano prefecture we want to help them. But at the same time it takes a lot to become a farmer.”

‘A slower life’

The prefecture and the local branch of Japan Agriculture, a nationwide farmers’ co-operative, offer support for those who decide to go ahead after a weekend of visiting farms.

Lessons are available in the practicalities of agriculture, and help finding available land. Mentoring has also been successful.

Hitoshi KajiyaHitoshi Kajiya left the city to become an apprentice for a farmer in Nagano prefecture

Giichi Tanaka, 86, found his apprentice several years ago.

Bent almost double from age, he still works in his greenhouses growing cucumbers, as he has done every day since he came back from World War II.

His own son left decades ago to become a policeman so he was worried about who would take over after he had gone.

Then Hitoshi Kajiya gave up his career as a systems engineer in Yokohama to join him on the farm.

“I was really fed up with my life in the city,” says the younger man.

“I was too busy working every day. I wanted to change so I had a slower life. I wanted to become a farmer. The work is slower paced and it is really fulfilling.”

“I was looking for a member of the younger generation to take over, someone I could teach to farm,” says Mr Tanaka. “Even if my son wanted to, he would be too old. Mr Kajiya is very good. He is very enthusiastic.”

Changed priorities?

Their farm is a stop on the tour being taken by Megumi Sakaguchi from Tokyo.

And talking to them, among their rows of cucumber plants, helps persuade her she is making the right decision.

An increasing number of young people in Japan are quitting the cities for the countryside

“When I was younger I went to Tokyo because I wanted a bright, vibrant life, but I like it better here – full of nature,” she says.

“If you live in the city you don’t know who lives next door. But in the countryside you greet your neighbours. I’ve realised I like people,” she adds.

“I know I will enjoy my life much more in touch with my community. Here you even talk to strangers. The kids say hi. I think I will enjoy the country life.”

Japan remains a supremely urban country and the numbers now returning to the countryside are tiny compared to those who went the other way.

Kanto, the region grouping Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama in one unbroken sprawl, is the most populous conglomeration the world has ever seen with a bigger economy than India.

But in the nation which led Asia in its rush from the countryside to the cities a few young people are rediscovering the value of what was left behind.

Japan’s youth turn to rural areas seeking a slower life

Japan’s youth turn to rural areas seeking a slower life

Sayo, JapanJapan’s farmers are mainly elderly – but some young people are joining their ranks

Related Stories

The bright lights of the big city have been a draw for decades, pulling people into Tokyo from the countryside.

But for some young Japanese, the city with its skyscrapers and neon lights is losing its appeal.

Like millions of others from her generation Megumi Sakaguchi cannot find a permanent job, just contracts.

Temporary workers now make up a third of the workforce – up from fewer than a fifth in the mid-1980s – and a greater proportion of them are young.

Generation Asia graphic

The certainty of the job-for-life tradition enjoyed by earlier generations has passed her by.

“I never know if I’m going to lose my job,” she says. “Financially my anxiety levels are very high.

“In the morning during the rush hour when I’m getting off the train, the way people behave, they are almost inhuman,” she adds.

So she has decided it is time for a change.

One weekend in October Megumi Sakaguchi joined a bus tour through the Japanese countryside.

Like her fellow passengers, who were also from the cities, she was getting a taste of what life would be like as a farmer – trying out working the land for a day.

Start Quote

Megumi Sakaguchi

I know I will enjoy my life much more in touch with my community – here you even talk to strangers”

Megumi Sakaguchi

Excursions like this around apple orchards and greenhouses full of strawberry plants, talking to farmers in their fields, take place pretty much every week somewhere in rural Japan.

They are organised and paid for by local authorities which are desperate to repopulate the countryside.

After years of young people heading for the cities the average farmer in Japan is now 65.8 years old and that figure is rising steadily.

But now some are considering making the journey back.

“There are more people that want to be farmers now, and the numbers are increasing,” says Naoko Maruyama, a local government official who uses a website to attract potential recruits.

“More people from the city want a rural life. Here in Nagano prefecture we want to help them. But at the same time it takes a lot to become a farmer.”

‘A slower life’

The prefecture and the local branch of Japan Agriculture, a nationwide farmers’ co-operative, offer support for those who decide to go ahead after a weekend of visiting farms.

Lessons are available in the practicalities of agriculture, and help finding available land. Mentoring has also been successful.

Hitoshi KajiyaHitoshi Kajiya left the city to become an apprentice for a farmer in Nagano prefecture

Giichi Tanaka, 86, found his apprentice several years ago.

Bent almost double from age, he still works in his greenhouses growing cucumbers, as he has done every day since he came back from World War II.

His own son left decades ago to become a policeman so he was worried about who would take over after he had gone.

Then Hitoshi Kajiya gave up his career as a systems engineer in Yokohama to join him on the farm.

“I was really fed up with my life in the city,” says the younger man.

“I was too busy working every day. I wanted to change so I had a slower life. I wanted to become a farmer. The work is slower paced and it is really fulfilling.”

“I was looking for a member of the younger generation to take over, someone I could teach to farm,” says Mr Tanaka. “Even if my son wanted to, he would be too old. Mr Kajiya is very good. He is very enthusiastic.”

Changed priorities?

Their farm is a stop on the tour being taken by Megumi Sakaguchi from Tokyo.

And talking to them, among their rows of cucumber plants, helps persuade her she is making the right decision.

An increasing number of young people in Japan are quitting the cities for the countryside

“When I was younger I went to Tokyo because I wanted a bright, vibrant life, but I like it better here – full of nature,” she says.

“If you live in the city you don’t know who lives next door. But in the countryside you greet your neighbours. I’ve realised I like people,” she adds.

“I know I will enjoy my life much more in touch with my community. Here you even talk to strangers. The kids say hi. I think I will enjoy the country life.”

Japan remains a supremely urban country and the numbers now returning to the countryside are tiny compared to those who went the other way.

Kanto, the region grouping Tokyo, Kawasaki and Yokohama in one unbroken sprawl, is the most populous conglomeration the world has ever seen with a bigger economy than India.

But in the nation which led Asia in its rush from the countryside to the cities a few young people are rediscovering the value of what was left behind.

Shell and Iraq in new energy deal

Shell and Iraq in new energy deal

Natural gas flares in IraqIraq sits on top of large amounts of oil and gas

Iraq has agreed a final $17bn (£11bn) deal over 25 years with Royal Dutch Shell and Mitsubishi to capture flared gas at southern oilfields.

It is one of the largest Iraq has signed with foreign energy firms, and should boost production of electricity.

Gas will be gathered from three major oil fields in Basra province that is currently wasted due to a lack of infrastructure.

More than 700 million cubic feet per day of gas is burned off at present.

Shell has signed a number of previous deals to develop oil and gas resources in Iraq.

The new venture will be called Basra Gas Company, with Iraq holding a 51% stake, Royal Dutch Shell’s 44% and Mitsubishi 5%.

As well as providing for domestic energy, there may also be options for gas exports.

Iraq sits on top of 143.1 billion barrels of crude oil and 126.7 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves.

Big emitters aim at climate delay

Big emitters aim at climate delay

South African minister Maite Nkoana-MashabaneSouth Africa’s Maite Nkoana-Mashabane called for delegates to find a “common solution” for the future

Related Stories

As this year’s UN climate summit opens, some of the developing world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters are bidding to delay talks on a new global agreement.

To the anger of small islands states, India and Brazil have joined rich nations in wanting to start talks on a legal deal no earlier than 2
015.

The EU and climate-vulnerable blocs want to start as soon as possible, and have the deal finalised by 2015.

The UN summit, in Durban, South Africa, may make progress in a few areas.

“We are in Durban with one purpose: to find a common solution that will secure a future to generations to come,” said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s minister of international relations, who is chairing the summit.

But the process of finding that common solution, in the form of an agreement that can constrain greeenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the global average temperature rise below 2C, will entail some complex and difficult politics.

Developing countries will certainly target rich governments such as Japan, Canada and Russia over their refusal to commit to new emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol, whose current targets expire at the end of next year.

They see this as a breach of previous commitments and of trust.

But some observers say small island states may begin “naming and shaming” developing countries that are also delaying progress.

They say the impasse should not delay talks on a new deal, arguing that to do so would be, in one delegate’s wording, “the politics of mutually-assured destruction”.

“They’re on the edge of a mess,” another delegate told BBC News, “and they may not be able to resolve this mess”.

Seismic shift

Start Quote

The global response to climate change simply does not have time for advancing self-serving national interests”

Mark RobertsEIA

The politics of the UN climate process are undergoing something of a fundamental transformation.

Increasingly, countries are dividing into one group that wants a new global treaty as soon as possible – the EU plus lots of developing countries – and another that prefers a delay and perhaps something less rigorous than a full treaty.

The divide was evident earlier this month at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) meeting in Arlington, US – the body that includes 17 of the world’s highest-polluting nations.

There, the UK and others argued that the Durban summit should agree to begin work on a new global agreement immediately, to have it in place by 2015, and operating by 2020 at the very latest.

The US, Russia and Japan were already arguing for a longer timeframe.

But BBC News has learned that at the MEF meeting, Brazil and India took the same position.

DURBAN CLIMATE CONFERENCE

  • Summit will
    attempt to agree the roadmap for a future global deal on reducing carbon emissions
  • Developing countries are insisting rich nations pledge further emission cuts under the Kyoto Protocol
  • Delegates also aim to finalise some deals struck at last year’s summit
  • These include speeding up the roll-out of clean technology to developing nations…
  • … and a system for managing the Green Climate Fund, scheduled to gather and distribute billions of dollars per year to developing countries
  • Progress may also be made on funding forest protection

Brazil wants the period 2012-15 to be a “reflection phase”, while India suggested it should be a “technical/scientific period”.

China, now the world’s biggest emitter, is said by sources to be more flexible, though its top priority for Durban is the Kyoto Protocol.

“The planet has no other sustainable alternative other than to ensure the continuity of the Kyoto Protocol, through a second commitment period starting in 2013,” said Jorge Arguello, leader of the Argentinian delegation, which this year chairs the powerful G77/China bloc of 131 nations.

“The adoption of a second commitment period for the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions under the Kyoto Protocol is not only a political imperative and a historical responsibility, but a legal obligation that must be faced as such.”

Although the EU does not oppose a second commitment period, other developed nations do.

And as the US left the protocol years ago, nations still signed on account only for about 15% of global emissions – which is why there is so much emphasis on a new instrument, with some legal force, covering all countries.

Cooling wish

The US, Russia, Japan and Canada have all argued for delaying negotiations on this for various domestic political reasons.

EU climate commissioner Connie HedegaardConnie Hedegaard’s EU is increasingly isolated among the industrialised world bloc

But the news that big developing countries are also lobbying for a delay is likely to lead to fireworks in Durban.

Many of the countries most at risk from climate impacts want to cut emissions fast enough to hold the global average temperature rise from pre-industrial times under 1.5C.

Scientific assessments say that for this to happen, global emissions should peak and begin to fall before 2020, adding urgency to these nations’ quest for a new and effective global agreement.

President Nasheed of the Maldives is virtually the only leader who has spoken openly of the need for major developing countries to begin cutting emissions soon.

Equating the need to develop with the right to emit greenhouse gases is, he has said, “rather silly”.

But sources in Durban indicate that delegates from other small developing countries may join him before the fortnight elapses, and demand more of the big developing nations.

China, Brazil and India are also being blamed for blocking moves to phase out the climate-warming industrial HFC gases, which small island states tabled at the Montreal Protocol meeting in Bali last week.

“The global response to climate change simply does not have time for advancing self-serving national interests,” said Mark Roberts, international policy advisor for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Funding gap

Sources say, however, that there is real prospect of agreement in Durban on rules and mechanisms for a Green Climate Fund.

This would raise and disburse sums, rising to $100bn per year by 2020, to developing nations.

Climate change glossary
Select a term to learn more:

Annex I countries

Annex I countries
The industrialised countries (and countries in transition to a market economy) which took on obligations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Their combined emissions, averaged out during the 2008-2012 period, should be 5.2% below 1990 levels.

There is no agreement on where the money should come from.

Developing countries say the public coffers of industrialised nations should be the main source, whereas western governments say the bulk must come from private sector sources.

That is unlikely to be resolved until the end of next year.

But finalising the fund’s rules in Durban would be a concrete step forward.

Tim Gore, Oxfam’s chief policy adviser, said UK Climate Minister Chris Huhne must push for “getting the money flowing through the Green Climate Fund that poor people need to fight climate change now.

“A deal to raise resources from international transport could be on the table, and Huhne must convince other ministers to strike it,” he said.

However, there is widespread scepticism about the much smaller funds – $10bn per year – that developed nations are already supposed to be contributing under the Fast Start Finance agreement made in 2009.

Developing countries say only a small fraction of what has been pledged is genuinely “new and additional”, as it is meant to be; and that little has actually materialised.

The summit may also see a row over the EU’s imminent integration of aviation into the Emission Trading Schemen, which India and some other developing nations oppose.

Follow Richard on Twitter

More on This Story

Related Stories