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The United Nations climate talks that ended on Sunday in Durban, South Africa, did not mean any important progress in two main issues: developed countries’ commitment to drastic emissions cuts; and climate funds for developing countries to adapt to climate change.
The Durban agreements, which the rich countries’ governments are selling to the world as “great achievements”, are a step backwards in the fundamental decisions made and undermine the very UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed in 1992.
Amid the outcomes of the COP, a UN press release highlights the agreement of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol as from January of 2013. This information was denied by several sectors. Venezuelan chief negotiator, Claudia Salerno, told Telesur that there was no agreement on that regard.
The Protocol is the only legally binding instrument to tackle climate change, which forces only developed nations to reduce their polluting emissions. It is based on the UNFCCC’s “share but differentiated responsibility” principle and on the rich countries’ “historic responsibility” principle.
The extension of the Kyoto Protocol was one of the main demands of social movements and organizations that work for climate justice. The legal instrument is considered as fundamental to force developed nations to cut their emissions.
However, the emissions cuts so far proposed by industrialized countries are insignificant, if not non existent. Scientists warn that the current pollution level could lead the planet to an average annual temperature increase of over 4 degrees Celsius, compared with the pre-industrial era. Meanwhile, science shows that we should try by all means to limit the temperature increase to two degrees.
Without emissions cuts in line with science, the Kyoto Protocol becomes an empty instrument. The possibility of extending the Protocol was used by developed nations during the COP as a way to force the approval of the so called “Durban Platform”, a new negotiating path to sign a new agreement in 2015 at the latest. The agreement would enter into effect in 2020 and it would end up killing the Kyoto Protocol.
The new agreement would include developing countries, especially emerging economies like China and India, and many warn that it could be a system based on pledges instead of cuts obligations. What is more, the new negotiating process delays urgent necessary action to tackle climate change five to ten years.
The “Durban Platform” shows how developed nations found the way around to get away from the obligations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol in order to shift to a system that places the burden on developing countries. Rich countries have found this solution without ever having complied with their obligations like emissions reductions; funding for adaptation and mitigation to climate change in the global South and technology transfer to those regions for clean development.
Another important aspect of the Durban agreements is the approval of the Green Climate Fund in order to fund adaptation and mitigation to climate change in vulnerable countries. However, this fund is out of money, warns environmental federation Friends of the Earth International. Besides, over 160 civil society organizations from 39 countries exposed in Durban in an open letter that developed countries, especially the US, the UK and Japan, are trying to have transnational corporations and financial elites access the Green Climate Fund directly.
Generally speaking, the climate COP in Durban did not reach any substantial agreements on emissions cuts and climate finance, which is key to the most affected and vulnerable nations. Instead, action to tackle the climate crisis was delayed and developed nations, together with corporate power, imposed the conditions needed to avoid their obligations and responsibility. There is nothing to celebrate.
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