Durban Climate Talks Begin With Dim Hopes for a Global Deal

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Climate talks began in Durban, South Africa on Monday amid downplayed expectations for any meaningful agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions or progress on finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

With the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory carbon targets now covering less than a third of the world’s carbon emissions, some observers say that a global, top-down approach may increasingly be replaced by local, incremental climate policies, from Australia’s new carbon tax to Colombian initiatives to replace polluting truck fleets and promote renewable energy.

“The situation has never been weaker for [a global]vision,” said James L. Connaughton, who chaired the Council on Environmental Quality under President George W. Bush.

In 1997, nearly 200 industrialized nations agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, pledging a 5.2 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2012. But the U.S. never ratified the protocol, and the targets did not apply to emerging countries like China and India.

The European Union is the only Kyoto signatory willing to sign on for a second five-year commitment period, but will only do so if other nations — including the U.S., China, and India — begin negotiations on a global deal that can be implemented by 2020.

Negotiators hope to make some progress in Durban on establishing financing mechanisms to help developing nations deal with the impacts of global warming.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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