Climate talks end with late deal

Delegates and negotiators discuss the latest draft report in Durban, 10 December Elements of the draft text caused much discussion

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UN climate talks have closed with an agreement that the chair said had "saved tomorrow, today".

The European Union will place its current emission-cutting pledges inside the legally-binding Kyoto Protocol, a key demand of developing countries.

Talks on a new legal deal covering all countries will begin next year and end by 2015, coming into effect by 2020.

Management of a fund for climate aid to poor countries has also been agreed, though how to raise the money has not.

Talks ran nearly 36 hours beyond their scheduled close, with many delegates saying the host government lacked urgency and strategy.

Nevertheless, there was applause in the main conference hall when South Africa's International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, brought down the long-awaited final gavel.

"We came here with plan A, and we have concluded this meeting with plan A to save one planet for the future of our children and our grandchildren to come," she said.

"We have made history."

The conclusion was delayed by a dispute between the EU and India over the precise wording of the "roadmap" for a new global deal.

Start Quote

While they develop, we die; and why should we accept this?”

End Quote Karl Hood Foreign Minister of Grenada

India did not want a specification that it must be legally binding.

Eventually, a Brazilian diplomat came up with the formulation that the deal must have "legal force", which proved acceptable.

The roadmap proposal originated with the EU, the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) and the Least Developed Countries bloc (LDCs).

They argued that only a new legal agreement eventually covering emissions from all countries - particularly fast-growing major emitters such as China - could keep the rise in global average temperatures since pre-industrial times below 2C (3.6F), the internationally-agreed threshold.

"If there is no legal instrument by which we can make countries responsible for their actions, then we are relegating countries to the fancies of beautiful words," said Karl Hood, Grenada's Foreign Minister, speaking for Aosis.

"While they develop, we die; and why should we accept this?"

Impassioned arguments

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, president of the talks: "No one can walk out of this room and say we don't care about climate change"

Delegates from the Basic group - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - criticised what they saw as a tight timetable and excessive legality.

"I stand firm on my position of equity," said an impassioned Jayanthi Natarajan, India's environment minister.

"This is not about India, it is about the entire world."

India believes in maintaining the current stark division where only countries labelled "developed" have to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

Western nations, she said, have not cut their own emissions as they had pledged; so why should poorer countries have to do it for them?

Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation, agreed.

Apparently trembling with rage, he berated the developed countries: "We are doing things you are not doing... we want to see your real actions".

However, Bangladesh and some other developing countries weighed in on the side of Aosis, saying a new legally-binding deal was needed.

Aosis and the LDCs agree that rich countries need to do more.

But they also accept analyses concluding that fast-developing countries such as China will need to cut their emissions several years in the future if governments are to meet their goal of keeping the rise in global average temperature since pre-industrial times below 2C.

Once the roadmap blockage had been cleared, everything else followed quickly.

Climate change glossary
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Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change - for example construction of barriers to protect against rising sea levels, or conversion to crops capable of surviving high temperatures and drought.

There were some surreal moment of confusion, but few objections, except from members of the Latin American Alba group, who said the developed world was not living up to its promises.

Green fund

A management framework was adopted for the Green Climate Fund, which will eventually gather and disburse finance amounting to $100bn (£64bn) per year to help poor countries develop cleanly and adapt to climate impacts.

There has also been significant progress on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).

Environment groups were divided in their reaction, with some finding it a significant step forward and others saying it had done nothing to change the course of climate change.

Many studies indicate that current pledges on reducing emissions are taking the Earth towards a temperature rise of double the 2C target.

Michael Jacobs, visiting professor at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, said the agreement could bring real changes.

"The agreement here has not in itself taken us off the 4C path we are on," he said.

"But by forcing countries for the first time to admit that their current policies are inadequate and must be strengthened by 2015, it has snatched 2C from the jaws of impossibility.

"At the same time it has re-established the principle that climate change should be tackled through international law, not national, voluntarism."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I hope the climate change sceptics are right. Otherwise our great great grand kids will be doomed.
    Incidentally, we must always understand that politicians and business corporations will always put short term profits ahead of the long term interests of the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    What's happening in Durban right now is tantamount to a heist - an attempted robbery of wealthier nations' taxpayers by unelected NGOs and eco-activists, intent on 'transferring wealth' to poorer nations by force - COP-17 is a crime scene and we are witnessing it happen in real time. Why are journalists not reporting the facts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Why won't the CRU, IPCC et al, adopt an open and transparent access policy to their 'research', methodology, modelling formulae & techniques.

    CERN encouraged others to access their data (good science)

    Nazi party policy & propaganda was peer reviewed & approved by fellow nazis. Just look where that led the human race.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Discussion threads on this are pointless, they draw both hired and amateur deniers like flies on... well, anyway, there's nothing to be gained by engaging with 'em, so I don't.

    I'm disgusted, but not surprised, by the resistance of the US, Canada, et al. The best hope is that the rise of popular protest will include demands which will force action, and that denier loonies spark a sane backlash.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    May I make a controversial suggestion bound to attract negative votes: humans should regulate their wastes, including gases, shock gasp, horror! Vote this statement down quickly! We humans can't possibly show responsibility towards our environment, perish the thought. No, no, we must be allowed to do what we will to this planet and Mother Nature will keep tending to all our needs. I rest my case.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.


    Do you think it's fair that journalists are excluded from the actual talks, whereas activists from (such as) WWF are allowed in when masquerading as government delegates for Belgium etc?

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    Hard to understand why these meetings take place. They are doomed to failure. USA doesn't sign any agreement. China still spews carbon emisions. Malaysia/Indonesia continues slash & burn, so can't see the top of the Twin Towers in Kualar Lumpar each Autumn. How much does India pollute. There is possibly more pollution created by the jets to take these delegates to the meeting than they can save.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    "The arrogance of people believing that man has the ability to change the earths weather is amazing... The earths weather goes up and down..."
    You are talking about weather but this topic is about climate; big difference.
    And do you think man can increase CO2 by 25% in as little as 60 years and that will have no impact?

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    One day someone will wake up to the fact that this planet cannot sustain more than a couple of billion humans providing each one of them with a full belly, a nice car, good medical care and a secure place to live.
    By that time, the global population will be 12Bn+ and it will then be too late to prevent the chaos and destruction affecting the natural world to directly impact on human survival.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    @Jim 212 - Absolutely spot on but, sadly, it can only remain an observation. Our elected politicians are, in the main, elected on a mandate of increased economic growth, and it doesn't look like humanity can rely on its collective self. We therefore need to look for answers but we MUST look before we jump

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    To all those who say there is no need to worry about GW, do me a favour, go live by the sea!

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Climate change is part of the earth's natural cycle, but the danger is if we add to it by driving climate change too quickly. The natural cycles of this planet have also brought about mass extinctions, especially of large animals, like humans. Of course, it wont matter if humans do go extinct as we are only computer programs, the Martians will simply reboot the Matrix.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    warming itself had been observed. yet we do not know the meaning of several yrs of warming in scale of Earth's natural history.

    hypothesis od ACC requires some better evidence and honesty. many claims are based on distorted science, fraudulent and biased by huge conflict of interes.
    on such basis it is not reasonable to spent vast amount of money which could be used in better way

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Good science relies on rec of what we don't know and what all the ?s are. Too much blinkered focus on emissions/GG here. Whilst man-made CO2 (probably) adds to the natural warming cycle, we have to look v closely at alternative energy sources. 'Renewables' aren't free, they involve extracting energy from a delicate eco system. This directly affects climate/environment. By how much when scaled up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    @188 "The earths weather goes up and down on its own doing!"

    And you know this how? You know it because scientists, the same ones you now feel free to disbelieve because it suits your preconceptions, have researched past climate and passed on their knowledge. How come you believe them in one case and not the other?

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    Climate change (which is different to local weather fluctuations) happens slowly over many thousands of years and has been going on since this planet was formed. Sudden climate change that happens over hundreds of years is not normal and the cause is usually mega volcanic explosions and asteroid strikes. The sudden climate change that this planet is experiencing has to be caused by human activity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    The best outcome would be no outcome, this is circus has long since stopped being anything to do with climate and everything to do with wealth transfer, control and taxation. The arrogance of the UN and Governments to think they can control the climate on the Planet is just astounding!

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    This as always misses the point: we use too much stuff. You just can't keep using stuff for ever, eventually you run out of stuff, you don't need a degree to get that.

    That is also an economic consideration and a rational approach would be to join up the two problems: push our economies towards more sustainable development. But our economy is addicted to consumerism not reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    What a scam!

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    201 kelvin273
    Big oil is not the problem, most of the worlds CO2 does NOT come from the use of oil for transport, that is the continuing big lie of eco freaks, respected climate scientists know climate change has more than one cause, including deforestation, land clearances by burning and power generation - however, deforestation & land clearances are not taxable for revenue raising in the UK.


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