[Debate] (Fwd) Durban's Conf of Polluters pleased Washington for inequity
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Jan 27 06:21:24 GMT 2012
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Subject: [climate justice now!] Stern's former advisor on Durban's
Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2012 11:07:47 -0500
From: Brian Tokar <briant at pshift.com>
From today's NY Times report from Davos. I think it's quite revealing re: how policy circles in the US view their specific accomplishments in Durban. It also confirms our suspicions:
> Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group and a former adviser to the chief American climate negotiator, Todd D. Stern, said that the Durban platform was promising because of what it did not say.
> “There is no mention of historic responsibility or per capita emissions,” he wrote in an analysis of the Durban meeting. “There is no mention of economic development as the priority for developing countries. There is no mention of a difference between developed and developing country action. Rather it calls for urgent action by everyone and the widest possible collaboration.”
We no longer need to read between the lines to surmise the intentions behind the omission of equity language from the Durban "platform."
Signs of New Life as U.N. Searches for a Climate Accord
By JOHN M. BRODER
Published: January 24, 2012
WASHINGTON — Critics and supporters alike agree that the U.N. forum for
negotiating international climate change
policies is an ungainly mess, its annual gatherings marked by discord,
disarray and brinkmanship.
Each year, exhausted delegates and observers return home thinking that
there has to be a better way to address what they believe to be one of
the defining challenges of our time: the relentless warming of the
planet and its impact on the world’s inhabitants.
But the recently concluded meeting in Durban, South Africa, which
established a new mandate for concluding a binding agreement of some
sort by 2015, has given the process new life and hushed many of its
critics. For now.
“Apart from the fact that we took 36 hours longer than we expected, I
actually think Durban will be proven by history to be the most
encompassing and farthest reaching agreements that any climate
conference has ever reached,” said Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican
diplomat who leads the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the
body that oversees the negotiations.
She said that the crowning achievement of the meeting was the so-called
Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, which requires the participating
194 nations to develop over the next four years “a protocol, another
legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” to reduce global
greenhouse gas emissions, limit temperature rise and help developing
countries make the transition to a cleaner energy economy.
The platform explicitly states that the resulting agreement will be
“applicable to all parties,” erasing a 20-year-old distinction between
rich and poor countries that has undermined the process.
Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group and a
former adviser to the chief American climate negotiator, Todd D. Stern,
said that the Durban platform was promising because of what it did not say.
“There is no mention of historic responsibility or per capita
emissions,” he wrote in an analysis of the Durban meeting. “There is no
mention of economic development as the priority for developing
countries. There is no mention of a difference between developed and
developing country action. Rather it calls for urgent action by everyone
and the widest possible collaboration.”
Though relatively sanguine about the U.N. process for now, Ms. Figueres,
Mr. Hauser and others acknowledge that it represents only a fraction of
the effort that will be needed to effectively address climate change.
Real progress will require individual countries to fulfill their
voluntary pledges under previous U.N. agreements. Other international
bodies, including the Group of 20 major economies, the Major Economies
Forum and regional organizations like the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation group must step up their efforts on climate change and clean
energy development. Governments and the private sector will have to
dramatically expand investment in renewable energy technology.
And all this must happen as virtually every part of the world is
experiencing economic malaise and political uncertainty. A number of key
countries — including France, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea and
United States — are holding elections this year. The outcomes will
affect, for example, the United States’ willingness to meet its
emissions reduction targets and engage sincerely in international talks.
Elections could also modify Japan’s and France’s continuing commitment
to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster.
“This is so large, so complex and so important that it cannot be
entrusted to one single process,” Ms. Figueres said. “It must be
attacked from multiple points. Everyone must be engaged. We are looking
at nothing less than an energy and industrial revolution the likes of
which we have never seen.”
She would not comment in detail on the stakes for the international
negotiations of the American presidential and congressional elections.
Climate change should be nonpartisan, she said.
Nick Robins, an energy and climate change analyst at HSBC, the global
bank based in London, said that private finance and technology firms
would play an increasing role in reducing carbon emissions, with or
without the U.N. convention or even radical policy changes in the
countries that generate the largest emissions.
Investment in low-carbon technology, from solar and nuclear to energy
efficiency in buildings and lighting, is now $720 billion a year. “By
2020,” he said, “we estimate it to be $2.2 trillion, without any new
global deal or major change in policy in the leading economies.”
Mr. Robins noted in a recent analysis that the progress at Durban will
do little in the short or medium term to reverse the current growth in
consumption of dirty-burning fuels such as oil and coal
Last year greenhouse gas emissions from all sources set a new record and
he anticipates that 2012 will top that.
Unless that trend is reversed quickly, he and others contend, the world
will never meet the U.N. goal of keeping an increase in average global
temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) above
“We believe,” Mr. Robins wrote, “that the ‘ambition gap’ in climate
policy means that hitting this target looks increasingly unlikely,
resulting in further climate disruption.”
Robert N. Stavins, director of the environmental economics program at
Harvard University, said that Durban had helped resuscitate an
international effort that appeared close to collapse. He said that the
tasks before it were still difficult — producing meaningful emissions
reductions quickly and at acceptable cost — but, unlike previous
promises, there was at least now a structure that binds all the major
“Only time will tell whether the Durban Platform delivers on its
promise,” Mr. Stavins said, “or turns out to be another ‘Bali Roadmap,’
The vast majority of the nations that participate in the U.N. talks are
victims, not perpetrators, of the rising seas, spreading deserts and
other climate impacts that scientists say are brought on by increasing
concentrations of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the
atmosphere. The bulk of these emissions were produced by a handful of
advanced industrial nations over the past century. Now, a relatively
small number of fast-growing emerging economies, notably China, India,
Brazil and South Africa, are adding to the concentrations.
Those deeply engaged in the diplomatic process, while acknowledging its
flaws, say the world cannot entrust its fate to bankers, entrepreneurs
or even the self-interest of nation-states. It was these actors, after
all, who brought the world an energy system that puts no price on the
global harm caused by ever-rising greenhouse gas emissions.
“I really do believe that a common international framework around all
these things must be the aim to bring us the scale and the urgency we
need,” said Connie Hedegaard, the E.U. commissioner for climate action.
“Not that I don’t believe in the market, but it matters whether you have
common rules or not.”
As for the weaknesses of the U.N. framework convention, “You don’t have
to tell me about its shortcomings, how irritating and slow and
frustrating it is,” she said. “I know it. But the very simple answer is,
it’s the only forum we have.”
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