December 12, 2011

This Weekend’s News: Durban Climate Talks End with Promise for Future Progress

The New York Times
reported late yesterday that the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa ended on
Sunday with a promise for countries to work toward a new climate treaty,
extending the Kyoto Protocol until countries can reach an agreement. According to
The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog,
agreement requires countries to develop a new treaty by 2015 that would go into
effect by 2020
.” According to The New
York Times
, the agreement also “begins
a process for replacing the Kyoto agreement with something that treats all
countries — including the economic powerhouses China, India and Brazil —
,” a perennial sticking point between developed and developing
countries, and largely the reason why the United States refused to ratify the
Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

Beyond the agreement to work towards a new climate treaty, international
delegates did agree to establish a Green Climate Fund, which The New York Times reports will “help
mobilize a promised $100 billion a year in public and private financing by 2020
to assist developing countries in adapting to climate change and converting to
clean energy sources.
”  The fund
could play a significant role in helping vulnerable countries adapt to the
impacts of climate change and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning
them away from total reliance on carbon-intensive energy sources.

Opinions appeared to be mixed about the outcome of the
Durban climate talks. Observers lamented that “the
actions taken at the meeting, while sufficient to keep the negotiating process
alive, would not have a significant impact on climate change
,” The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, The Hill reports that “Climate
advocates were pleased that the Durban deal paves the way for big developing
nations including China, now the world’s largest emitter, to face binding
.” Others noted that countries now more than ever need to take
action back at home, especially given recent warnings from the International
Energy Agency
and the UN’s
World Meteorological Organization
that the world could be just a few years
away from a dangerous climate tipping point.


The bottom line appears to be that the UN climate
negotiating process remains intact, yet countries should be prepared for the
possibility that international negotiations will remain deadlocked in the years
ahead. As a result, countries should take independent steps to reduce their
greenhouse gas emissions while preparing for a future where climate change
could cause disruptions to existing political, economic, environmental and
social trends. Being prepared to adapt to climate change will undoubtedly
require governments to begin or continue refining climate impact assessments in
order to better understand how climate change may affect their country.

This Week’s Events

This morning at 9 AM, the George Washington University’s
Elliot School will host Nuclear
Policy Talks: The Importance of the National Laboratories

On Tuesday beginning at 8:15 AM, head over to the New
America Foundation for The
Resource Revolution
. Then at 11:45 AM, the Hudson Institute will host Climate
Policy Holy Wars: Clashing Secular Religions and Stubborn Economic Realities
At 2 PM, the Institute for Policy Studies will have a teleconference on Land
Grabs in Africa and Global Investment

At 3 PM, head over to Carnegie for The
Future of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

On Wednesday at 10 AM, the National Press Club will host U.S. Solar
Industry Leaders: Extending Renewable Energy Program and the Overall State of
the Solar Industry

Finally on Friday at 12 PM, the American Institute for
Contemporary German Studies will have an event on European
Energy Security: Achievements, Shortcomings, and Potential Improvements