As the nearly 200 representatives gathered at COP17 hurdle towards the end of the talks, researchers have released yet another study that says they are just not doing enough. A report issued during the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban this week says that current goals set forth by government leaders will send the Earth towards a warming of 3.5° C in 2100. World leaders had previously agreed that they should limit the warming of the Earth to just 2° C, which would require world emissions to be cut by 2% each year until 2050. Now leaders are toying with the idea of putting off goals until 2015 or 2020, a move that the International Energy Agency has already noted will doom us all to a hefty bill should we want to fix things then. As the global leaders gathered in Durban dawdle and make little progress they are leading the human race right to a planet that’s about to become an oven.
Even the ex-UN Climate Chief is blaming the world leaders for dragging their heels in the dirt on this subject. Yvo de Boer left his post 18 months ago because of frustration with the stalled progress. He told the Associated Press on Sunday, “I still have the same view of the process that led me to leave the process. I’m still deeply concerned about where it’s going, or rather where it’s not going, about the lack of progress.” The new report out this week was compiled in a joint effort of the German groups Ecofys, Climate Analytics and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research called the Climate Action Tracker, and right now it is laying out loud and clear all of the inaction that de Boer became frustrated with.
Currently at the climate talks, no group progress has been made. Many developed nations want a revamp of the Kyoto Protocol that was put in place in 1997 and is set to expire in 2012 — and if reinstated needs to be brought up to date with current technology and research. Others want simply to ratify it again as it is and some countries are hoping to skirt the Kyoto protocol in favor of setting their own goals. With the current nation-state pledges from the Cancun Agreements, we are headed toward worldwide emissions of 55 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2020, 11 gigatonnes above what researchers believe will keep us below a 2° C rise in temperatures. In addition to the pledges simply not being enough, they aren’t subject to international scrutiny or punishment. There is no way to enforce them.
It has been floated around that the countries just need more time to talk but as the IEA noted — and as this new report notes — if we act now the changes will be relatively affordable. If we start to act after 2020, as the IEA noted in their recent report, for every $1 not spent before 2020 an additional $4.3 will be needed to counteract the inactivity and bring CO2 emissions down to acceptable levels by 2050 – the proverbial point of no return.
Going into the talks there was a lot of motioning by world leaders waiting for other major emitters to take the first step — most notably the US vs. China. As de Boer told the AP, “You’ve got a bunch of international leaders sitting 85 stories up on the edge of a building saying to each other, you jump first and I’ll follow. And there is understandably a reluctance to be the first one to jump.” This reluctance to be the first one to move is compounded by the fact that in many countries — like the United States — a large part of the citizens just don’t believe that any of this science is real which makes it difficult for legislation within the individual countries to pass.
The IEA, the coalition behind the Climate Action Tracker and de Boer are speaking out to push world leaders to start to make decisions on their own. There is simply no time to wait for this group of 200 to reach the same conclusion. We must act individually to curb climate change. As for now the leaders have until Friday, when the talks end, to come to some sort of a conclusion.