COP17—Durban Climate Conference
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November 28 – December 9, 2011, Durban, South Africa was the venue for the 17th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the 17th Conference of the Parties — or COP 17.
Predictably and sadly, the same issues complained about at previous annual meetings for the past decade continue to recycle themselves:
- Lack of quality (if any) media coverage
- West stalling on doing anything trying to blame India and China instead
- Lack of funding
- Disagreement on how to address it
As the past two decades have shown trying to get global agreement on tackling climate change seems to be futile. By comparison, more focused and limited interest of elites, however, are easier to push through, such as wars based on geopolitical threats (real and imaginary), or economic crises (where banks and other elites most responsible for the crises are bailed out by ordinary citizens).
Furthermore, as the West has generally shown in the past decade or more (even when their economies were doing good) paying now for something that seems to be a problem in the future is hard to accept. It is easier, therefore, to stall and keep blaming China, India and other emerging nations despite the historical inequality of those emissions. But ignoring that makes it easier to hope these emerging nations will pick up the burden of addressing emissions rises.
Generally speaking, media coverage of climate change issues and these conferences has been a mixed bag over the past decade. More recent years has seen increased interest and coverage (though many important issues are glossed over in mainstream media sound-byte style reporting).
However, by comparison, this year’s mainstream media coverage of this crucial conference was close to pathetic, to put it politely. In reality money speaks and so short term and elite/establishment views tend to prevail, which is why governments can so quickly get the
99% to bail out the banks and the top 1% with many trillions of dollars, while finding billions for fighting even more devastating climate change has taken almost 2 decades so far without any convincing results.
Personally observing mainstream TV news in UK during the week of the Durban talks revealed almost no major headlines until the very last day and even then just a few moments of summarizing an entire two weeks, which of course is not enough. But my own observations were not systemmatic. However, media watchdog Media Lens confirmed my fears of poor coverage, not just in the UK but elsewhere such as the US:
An additional concern that Media Lens also raises is what they described as
capitalism trampling on journalism:
In the United States, the annual Tyndall Report, which monitors the daily nightly newscasts of the three main TV outlets (ABC, CBS, and NBC) found just 4 stories on climate change for the entire 2011 on the 3 prime time news shows, two of them being just over 2 minutes each (the other two I cannot access from abroad).
The specific shows monitored are of course not the only news shown in the evenings, and other outlets like CNN are not included, and nor is the Internet, but 2/3rds of people get their news from TV in the US, as Jim Lobe noted in a news story covering this year’s Tyndall report. In that story, Andrew Tyndall, was interviewed by Jim Lobe who also added:
Despite media’s lack of interest, emissions continue to rise
And while it seems unimportant to the mainstream media, nature continues its course:
And these are rises of carbon emissions even during the tough economic conditions.
Media Lens and USA Today are referring to the global carbon project report.
That report adds that although China, USA, India, and Russia accounted for the largest emissions growth in 2010,
Per capita emissions of developed countries remain several times larger than those of developing countries.
In other words, significant — and fairer — gains can be obtained if rich nations would tackle their emissions (as has repeatedly been pointed out for some 2 decades).
Reuters summarized the above report and also added that a separate study published recently
concluded there was almost no chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius based on huge investments in polluting power stations.
The summary of that report from the journal, Nature Climate Change, worries:
How nations intend to keep within a 2 °C threshold, let alone consider at [sic] 1.5 °C threshold, is unclear in light of current progress (or lack of).
Keeping the average temperature increase within 2 °C of pre-industrial levels implies a target of 450 parts per million (ppm) C02 in the atmosphere. But 450ppm is already feared as not a safe target, but the only practical one to aim for now because of lack of progress amongst industrialized nations in the past 2 decades. And what if we get to 451 ppm?
Common but Differentiated Responsibility Principle Sidelined Again
As Inter Press Service (IPS) summarized:
This site’s section on climate justice has long gone into some detail about
- How the
Common but Differentiated Responsibilityacknowledges that rich nations have emitted most of the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, that developing countries’ emissions are likely to rise on their path to industrialization and trying to meet basic social and development needs; and that therefore while the goals are the same, the means to tackle climate change will be different.
- Year after year at climate summits, it seems this principle is often ignored by some rich nations and their media.
- It has therefore been easier in public to blame nations like China and India for reacting negatively and being uncooperative when faced with pressure to submit to emission reduction targets (before many rich nations demonstrate they can do the same).
Greenhouse gases tend to remain in the atmosphere for many decades so historical emissions are an important consideration.
The following shows that the rich nations (known as
Annex I countries in UN climate change speak) have historically emitted more than the rest of the world combined, even though China, India and others have been growing recently. This is why the
common but differentiated responsibilities principle was recognized.
(Chart updated in January 2012 to add data up to 2008 and preliminary estimates for 2009 and 2010)
No doubt, developing nations should be aware of their recent rise and also do more to curb their emissions. But given their later entry to industrialization and that their per capita emissions are even less than rich nations, more emission reduction could also be achieved per person in rich nations.
The US and others have characterized the campaign for climate justice and equality to the atmosphere as a way to claim climate
That seems reasonable. However, one of the implications is that any agreement that is subsequently drawn up will, in effect, put disproportionately more burden on the poorer countries to tackle a problem they did not largely cause. The poor are less likely to have the resources to do so, which also means that tackling climate change is less likely to be successful.
This is why rich nations are being asked to seriously think about the type and way they use energy in addition to helping the poorer nations (not necessarily
reparations but through meaningful technology and adaptation assistance — which would be far less costly than the bailouts readily handed to people that did cause a major problem).
In addition, there is little fairness in asking China, India and others to be subject to emission targets when many rich countries didn’t achieve the watered down Kyoto targets themselves.
Some emerging nations are in a grey area — India, China, Brazil, etc are rapidly developing and although they have enormous social and development problems outstanding, some of their wealthy are as wealthy (some more so) as those in industrialized nations. As such, wealthier developing nations aren’t necessarily the target (nor asking) for such adaptation funds.
It is certainly more complex than a few sentences on this page can provide, but the simplification offered by rich country leaders and their media hides this complexity year after year. (See climate justice from this web site for more details on this.)
Durban meeting outcome
The meeting in Durban seemed quite intense; some such as the US and EU were keen on getting China, India and other large emerging nations to sign on to binding emission reduction agreements. These countries were understandably reluctant and even if they may be gaining a stronger voice in the wake of the global/Western financial crisis, this meeting also showed that they haven’t eclipsed the West (at least not yet) on the diplomatic front.
Stephen Leahy, writing for IPS, provides a useful summary of the Durban meeting:
Interestingly, the level of reduction promised by the industrialized world is small compared to its portion of emissions. And it looks as though developing countries have lost out in many ways:
But it is not just developing countries that have lost out; the majority of the first world will have lost out too. Because, as Stephen Leahy rightly notes, trillions are easily and quickly made available to bail out the elite in a financial crises. But when it comes to an even bigger crisis that is further away (and admittedly harder, perhaps, to internalize), funds suddenly seem hard to find; governments are suddenly cash-strapped.
See also George Monbiot’s note on this, comparing the $7 trillion in US bailout for their own banks, while an estimate for capping climate change globally would require less than a 10th of that: $650 billion. And contrast how quickly the trillions were made available versus how challenging it is for a climate fund to come about.
The other important issue for developing countries is that any climate fund be independent of Western control, somehow, because of the bad experience most poor countries have had in the past.
There was quite a lot of outcry at the stance of the US. Democracy Now! for example reported on the
Startling Level of Obstructionism and Defeatism by the Obama Administration on a U.N. Climate Deal, opting for non-legally binding agreements.
Others, such as the EU, wanted a new legally binding agreement, but as the Third World Network, based in Malaysia, asked, What is the point of a new treaty? In Bali, 2007, the mechanisms were already agreed:
This double-standard (in many areas, not just environment) is a major reason many protests have erupted throughout the industrialized world. The elite seem so far removed from the effects of climate change that perhaps there is no incentive for them to do things about it, effectively, unlike during the recent financial crisis. Instead, resigning to a high level of warming is perhaps acceptable to the elite as they will be better equipped to deal with it.
For more about the issues from other organizations, here are some starting points:
- Climate Change coverage from Inter Press Service (IPS). (This web site carries an IPS feed.)
- Further coverage from Inter Press Service on their own site, including videos and other content not available via the feed on this web site
- Democracy Now! coverage
- Official COP 17 site
News stories from IPS
Below is a list of stories from Inter Press Service related to the Durban climate conference and its aftermath.
Friday, March 23, 2018
READING, United Kingdom, Mar 23 (IPS) - Greenhouse gases are produced as a by-product of the use of fossil fuels to supply light and heat, produce food, manufacture products and transport people and goods. These gases congregate in the upper atmosphere and result in global warming through absorption of sunlight reflected from the earth's surface. At the 21st meeting of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, it was agreed to limit the average increase in global temperature to 2°C .
Friday, February 02, 2018
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
BONN, Nov 15 (IPS) - It is fitting that this year's conference of parties (on climate change, COP 23) is led by Fiji, a nation on the frontlines.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
ROME, Nov 12 (IPS) - A high-level meeting of political leaders -– hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) -– sounded an ominous warning: that climate change poses an "alarming threat to food systems and food security in the Pacific islands."
Wednesday, November 08, 2017
BREMERHAVEN, Germany, Nov 08 (IPS) - Climate change is altering the ecosystem of our oceans, a big carbon sink and prime source of protein from fish. This is old news.
Wednesday, November 08, 2017
SUVA, Fiji, Nov 08 (IPS) - In the Pacific, climate change is an ever-present threat, undermining human rights, livelihoods, and security. Pacific Islanders are working with courage and resolve to build the resilience of their communities and to catalyse international actions towards ending global carbon pollution.
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
PEMBA, Zambia, Nov 07 (IPS) - As governments gather in Bonn, Germany for the next two weeks to hammer out a blueprint for implementation of the global climate change treaty signed in Paris in 2015, a major focus will be on emissions reductions to keep the global average temperature increase to well below 2°C by 2020.
Monday, November 06, 2017
ROME, Nov 06 (IPS) - The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what?
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 11 (IPS) - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and climate change do not often appear in the same headline together. Indeed, environmental issues have been, at most, peripheral to the Fund's core functions. But now economists inside and outside the IMF are beginning to understand that climate change has significant implications for national and regional economies, and so it's worth reconsidering the Fund's role in addressing the climate challenge.
Monday, August 28, 2017
ROME, Aug 28 (IPS) - While mainstream media have been widely reporting on the dramatic consequences of tropical storm Harvey in the United States, which has been characterised as the fiercest hurricane to hit this country in over a decade, global warming is expected to have a significant impact on "future yields of everything from rice to fish, particularly in countries situated closer to the equator," the United Nations warned.
Monday, August 28, 2017
CASTRIES, St Lucia, Aug 28 (IPS) - A Caribbean Community (CARICOM) prime minister has reiterated the call for developed countries to assist Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in their quest to combat the effects of climate change.
Friday, July 07, 2017
ROME, Jul 07 (IPS) - World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate.
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
ROME, Jun 27 (IPS) - It is no secret that the biggest responsible for climate change is greed. The greed of the world's largest private corporations, which blindly seek unlimited high financial benefits. And the greed of those politicians who are also blindly keen about holding their temporary power at any cost, thus not daring to challenge big business. Ordinary people can meanwhile help slow down such a hellish race.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
BALFATE, Honduras, May 16 (IPS) - In Balfate, a rural municipality that includes fishing villages and small farms along Honduras' Caribbean coast, the effects of climate change are already felt on its famous scenery and beaches. The sea is relentlessly approaching the houses, while the ecosystem is deteriorating.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 30 (IPS) - Climate change remains inextricably linked to the challenges of disaster risk reduction (DRR). And according to the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Robert Glasser, the reduction of greenhouse gases is "the single most urgent global disaster risk treatment".
Saturday, April 22, 2017
BLUEFIELDS, Nicaragua, Apr 22 (IPS) - The effects of climate change have hit Nicaragua's Caribbean coastal regions hard in the last decade and have forced the authorities and local residents to take protection and adaptation measures to address the phenomenon that has gradually undermined their safety and changed their way of life.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Apr 18 (IPS) - There were surprised gasps when University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor John Agard told journalists at an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in late November 2016 that mosquitoes were not only living longer, but were "breeding in septic tanks underground".
Tuesday, April 04, 2017
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Apr 04 (IPS) - From tourism-dependent nations like Barbados to those rich with natural resources like Guyana, climate change poses one of the biggest challenges for the countries of the Caribbean.
Friday, January 27, 2017
KAMPALA, Uganda, Jan 27 (IPS) - Discussions around climate change have largely ignored how men and women are affected by climate change differently, instead choosing to highlight the extreme and unpredictable weather patterns or decreases in agricultural productivity.
Friday, November 18, 2016
MARRAKECH, Nov 18 (IPS) - The world has been too slow in responding to climate events such as El Niño and La Niña, and those who are the "least responsible are the ones suffering most", Mary Robinson, the special envoy on El Niño and Climate, told IPS at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22).
Friday, November 18, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 18 (IPS) - Coal power does more to harm the world's poor than to help them, even before the devastating impacts of climate change are taken into account, according to a recent report published by 12 international development organisations.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Nov 17 (IPS) - "Climate change will make a difficult situation much worse, and will affect millions of people in the Middle East and North Africa region," World Bank MENA Vice-President Hafez Ghanem stated at the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakech, Morocco on 7-18 November.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
SANTIAGO, Oct 12 (IPS) - Climate change is leading to major modifications in agricultural production in Latin America and the Caribbean, and if mitigation and adaptation measures of the productive system are not urgently adopted, threats to food security will be exacerbated.
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 12 (IPS) - The world will need to more than double its current infrastructure stock over the next 15 years - a massive undertaking which could either contribute to or combat catastrophic climate change - according to a new report.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sep 01 (IPS) - U.S. President Barack Obama has stressed the urgency of tackling climate change in a speech to Pacific leaders in his home state of Hawaii.
Monday, July 25, 2016
ROME, Jul 25 (IPS) - No longer it is about restoring the legitimate rights of over 370 indigenous peoples spread across 70 countries worldwide, many of them living in dire situation, but now about their central, critical role in combating climate change.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 12 (IPS) - Addressing antibiotic resistance will require a global political response similar to the way the world has reacted to climate change or HIV / AIDS, Sweden's Minister of Public Health Gabriel Wikstrom, told IPS recently.
Monday, June 06, 2016
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 06 (IPS) - Climate change is now adding new layers of complexity to the nexus between migration and the environment.
Friday, May 20, 2016
SAN JOSE, May 20 (IPS) - As the Global South works to overcome a history of weak institutions, armed conflict and poverty-driven forced exodus, key causes of its humanitarian crises, developing countries now have to also fight to keep global warming from compounding their problems.
Monday, May 09, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, May 09 (IPS) - Helping at-risk communities adapt to climate change impacts is an important part of the Paris Climate Change agreement, but adaptation will not be complete without considering disaster risk.
- Climate Change and Global Warming Introduction
- UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Reactions to Climate Change Negotiations and Action
- Action on climate change is cheaper than inaction
- Global Warming, Spin and Media
- Climate Justice and Equity
- Climate Change Flexibility Mechanisms
- Carbon Sinks, Forests and Climate Change
- Climate Change Affects Biodiversity
- Global Warming and Population
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