What’s New January 2012

This page lists changes to this site for January 2012.

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An overview of the Climate Change Conference (also known as COP 17), held in Durban, South Africa in December 2011.

Predictably and sadly, the same issues have resurfaced: lack of media coverage, West stalling on doing anything trying to blame India and China instead, lack of funding, disagreement on how to address it, etc.

Geopolitical threats (real and imaginary) quickly focus a lot of political will and money is easily found to mobilize military forces when needed.

The economy also takes center stage as the current pressing issue, while climate change is easily deferred, in the hopes that the West can let China and India pick up the burden of addressing emissions even though they have not contributed to the historical build up of emissions that have started the recent changes in the climate.

This page is an overview of the Durban conference.

China, India and other emerging economies are often the focus points for climate change negotiations. Many rich nation politicians and their media often point to their rising emissions as proof that they urgently need to be bound to emission reduction targets in the same way rich nations are.

But what is often easily forgotten or omitted is that greenhouse gases can stay in the atmosphere for a very long time. In other words, historic emissions matter.

Historical data show that the majority of greenhouse emissions have been by rich nations, known as "Annex I" countries in climate negotiation speak:

Apart from China and India, the remainder of the top 10 historical greenhouse gas emitters have been from Annex I countries.

This is why 2 decades ago the climate negotiations started by understanding there were "common but differentiated principles" and why "Annex I" countries were initially given target emissions while the rest were to be given space to grow given the urgent need for poverty alleviation and development.

Furthermore, climate negotiations frameworks have always said developing nations need to avoid a polluting path to industrialization, so they can’t just use historic emissions injustice as an excuse not to do anything. At the same time, the dirty path to development was also the cheap and easy path which developing countries need to avoid, so it was also agreed that the Annex I countries should help developing countries in various ways. Needless to say much of this has not really happened.

These and additional charts have been added based on updated data up to 2008 on historical carbon emissions plus estimated emissions for 2009 and 2010.

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