Agreement reached at Durban Climate Talks

The Great and the Good of world politics have recently gathered in Durban, South Africa, for the latest round of global climate talks.  But what exactly were the conclusions to these talks; or, indeed, was anything properly concluded at all? 

The key agreements reached at Durban are as follows –

–  All 192 countries present in Durban agreed to start work on a new agreement on emissions targets, ‘with legal force’
–  Work on this agreement will begin ‘as a matter of urgency’, and be completed by 2015
–  The new agreement will come into force from 2020
–  This agreement will be informed by the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report of the –  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; i.e., that temperature rises must be capped at 2°C , to avoid ‘catastrophic’ climate change

The Kyoto agreement, which commits developed countries to emission reductions, will be extended for a period of either 5 or 8 years, until the new agreement comes into force.

While these agreements seem clear enough, there has been no shortage of debate on what they mean and what, if anything, they will achieve.  One criticism repeatedly levelled at the conference is that it failed to achieve anything concrete.  There will be no ‘Durban Convention’ or ‘Durban Agreement’; only the ‘Durban Platform’, from which further binding agreements will be negotiated.    There is a lot of diplomatic wrangling and negotiating ahead.  Journalists are already quipping that here will be a lot of ‘waiting on the Durban platform’ over the next few years before any agreement is reached.

Others fear that the wording of the Platform – that the final agreement should have ‘legal force’, rather than be ‘legally binding’ – is too vague and open to re-negotiation by the U.S and other states.  And there remains the arguement that this is all too little, too late, and the targets agreed will do little to halt global warming.

However, while there are reasons to grumble over the agreements reached – or not – at Durban, many have chosen to see the Platform as a positive step along the road to a greener, cleaner world economy.  They are a dramatic improvement on what was predicted in the early days of the summit.  Major emitters such as India and China came to the table opposing any plan to commit them to reducing emissions; they claimed that Kyoto members ‘had not fulfilled their political obligations’, and should complete the terms of that agreement before forming another.  The resulting compromise – that Kyoto should be extended while another legal deal is thrashed out – is therefore a significant improvement on what many countries had expected from Durban.  The new agreement will be a world-first – a global, legally binding agreement that commits all the world’s major economies and greatest emitters to reduce their carbon dependence.    

Regardless of whether we choose the pro or anti-Durban camp, one thing is clear; the Durban Platform, and the agreements that come out of it, will not on its own be sufficient to halt climate change.  The International Energy Agency has argued that emissions need to peak in 2017 and fall thereafter in order to keep temperature rise below 2°C .  The framework agreed at Durban will only come into play three years later, in 2020.  So, while international agreements will undoubtedly play an important role in combating climate change, other changes need to happen on a national, regional and local scale.  We believe that Advanced Plasma Power has a role to play in that change – offering a clean, locally-derived energy source that can heat local homes.



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