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 Responsibility” acknowledges 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 “reparations”; that it is unfair to make the industrialized nations pay for climate emissions into the past century or more at a time when they didn’t know it would cause more harm.
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, 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.
Friday, May 06, 2016
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 06 (IPS) - Merian Kalala, a farmer in Solwezi, capital of the North-Western Province of Zambia, knows firsthand that climate change is posing massive problems for agricultural productivity.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 (IPS) - The 134 members of the Group of 77 and China (G-77) made their mark on the Paris Climate Change Agreement and should now adopt a program of action to implement it, Ambassador Ahmed Djoghlaf told IPS in a recent interview.
Saturday, April 23, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 23 (IPS) - As countries came together at the United Nations this week to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement, partnerships were forged between countries of the global South to support the implementation of the global treaty.
Friday, April 22, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22 (IPS) - An unprecedented 175 countries are expected to sign the Paris Climate Change Agreement here Friday, with 15 developing countries taking the lead by also ratifying the treaty.
Monday, April 18, 2016
CAIRO, Apr 18 (IPS) - This is not about any alarming header—it is the dramatic conclusion of several scientific studies about the on-going climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area. The examples are stark.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 02 (IPS) - The world is still celebrating the Paris Agreement on Climate Changethe main outcome of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its ambitions are unprecedented: not only has the world committed to limit the increase of temperature to "well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels," it has also agreed to pursue efforts to "limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C."
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 20 (IPS) - The nearly 7,000 islands and the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea are home to thousands of endemic species and are on the migration route of many kinds of birds. Preserving this abundant fauna requires multilateral actions in today's era of global warming.
Wednesday, January 06, 2016
SANTO DOMINGO, Jan 06 (IPS) - Environmentally committed journalists in the Caribbean point to a major challenge for media workers: communicating and raising awareness about the crucial climate change agreement that emerged from the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
PARIS, Dec 12 (IPS) - The link between women in climate change is a cross-cutting issue that deserves greater recognition at climate negotiations. It is pervasive, touching everything; from health and agriculture to sanitation and education.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
LILONGWE, MALAWI, Dec 03 (IPS) - The government of Malawi has been struggling to end poverty since independence in 1964, banking its strategies on the proceeds from its agro based economy. Sadly, climate change entered the scene and dramatically disrupted the farming sector.
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
GENEVA, Dec 02 (IPS) - Arctic temperatures have increased twice as much as the global average in the past 100 years. Recent photos show that thousands of walruses normally resting on sea ice between dives to find food have been forced to crowd ashore because of extreme sea ice melt in Alaska. Such photos have once again reminded us that it is high time we take serious action on climate change if we want to save the Arctic.
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
ANSE-LA-RAYE, St. Lucia, Dec 02 (IPS) - In the Caribbean, some women find themselves on the frontline with the battle to mitigate climate change. Meet Dr. Krystal Cox. She is one of three girls who all studied medicine and got medical degrees.
Wednesday, December 02, 2015
PARIS, Dec 02 (IPS) - Recognizing that agriculture plays a significant role in global warming, farmer associations say they want to offer solutions, and they're urging governments to include them in negotiations during the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
KAMPALA, Uganda, Nov 26 (IPS) - Climate Change needs to be at the top of the country's agenda, according to a project examining Uganda's policies. It says the country hasn't paid enough attention to climate change in national development and agriculture plans and this needs to be turned around before it's too late.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
NEW DELHI, INDIA, Nov 19 (IPS) - Few countries in the world are as vulnerable to the effects of climate change as India is with its vast population (of over 1.2 billion) that is dependent on the growth of its agrarian economy, its expansive coastal areas and the Himalayan region and islands.
Thursday, November 05, 2015
MENDOZA, Argentina, Nov 05 (IPS) - Purple garlic that is losing its color? More translucent wine? Climate change will also affect the flavours of our food in the absence of measures to mitigate the impacts of global warming, which are already being felt in crops that are basic to local economies, such as in the Argentine province of Mendoza.
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE, Nov 03 (IPS) - Zimbabwe's planned Batoka Gorge power project on the Zambezi River is expected to generate 2,400 megawatts (MW) of electricity, upward from an initial 1,600 MW, but the worsening power cuts that are being blamed on low water levels have renewed concerns about the effects of climate change on mega dams.
Monday, October 05, 2015
SAN JOSE, Oct 05 (IPS) - Seen for years as passive actors in the fight against global warming, more than 100 countries of the Global South have submitted their national contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonising their economies.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 23 (IPS) - Brazil and Germany, the two largest national economies within their respective continents, are taking the lead in tackling climate change through outstanding policies and bilateral relations, according to experts.
- 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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