Representatives from over 190 countries across the world are still gathered in Durban, South Africa and though the conversation about the impending climate crisis continues, many have lost hope for an agreement on a solution for this year. In a news conference of NGO experts from the United States today, hosted by U.S. Climate Action Network, there seemed to be no expectations for a global agreement on how to curb emissions. Some experts on the panel expressed a positive outlook toward the development of a Green Climate Fund that would provide developing nations with $100 million per year, starting in 2020 to fight climate change within their countries. Leaders have until Friday to come up with some significant progress or it will be on to another year of waiting before another unsuccessful set of talks.
“Coming into Durban, the U.S. government worked hard to dial down expectations. Heading into the final days that expectation for mild success hasn’t changed,” Jennifer Haverkamp, Director of the International Climate Program at Environmental Defense Fund, said at the Climate Action Network news conference this afternoon. “We are running out of time to sort out the big questions at the table.”
She went on to note that Australia and South Africa had released information about personal emissions reduction goals within their own country right before or during the COP17 conference in Durban. She felt positive that other countries might do the same but openly pessimistic about the 194 nations gathered coming to a conclusion by Friday. Haverkamp, when asked by a reporter at Reuters what she thought the conference’s final conclusion might be, she replied, “If I were willing to answer questions like that, I’d be willing to buy lottery tickets, too.”
Jacqueline Patterson, Director of Environmental and Climate Justice Program at the NAACP opened her remarks by describing the current climate-affected crises already happening around the world. This year, 43 U.S. states declared emergencies due to some sort of extreme weather, and the U.S. was not alone in being beaten by mother nature; countries around the world were afflicted as well. Patterson noted that in the United States, we have ample resources to clean up after these catastrophes, but other developing communities aren’t as lucky. In addition to extreme weather, Patterson explained, our dependence on fossil fuel has a disproportionate effect on poor people. Coal mines and coal fire power plants are predominantly located in poor communities and poor nations where they increase levels of carcinogens in the air and destroy local environments.
Ilana Solomon, Senior Policy Analyst with ActionAid USA, followed Patterson’s comments with an update on the Green Climate Fund, a yearly fund meant to be established by the world’s wealthiest nations to help poorer nations reduce their emissions and fight climate change. She noted that though there is universal agreement that the fund should be established, the richest nations are balking about their contributions to the $100 million per year fund. “An empty fund will not meet the needs of poor countries struggling in the face of climate change,” Solomon said adding that the, “world bank says it is 7x cheaper to invest now than to mobilize emergency relief and pay for clean up process later.”
Outside of the talks in Durban, world leaders and environmentalists are outraged at the lack of progress at the talks. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (shown above, on right) said today that raising the money needed for the Green Climate Fund was not an option, even when the world’s economy is in the precarious position that it is in now, raising the cash is, “an imperative. We have to do it.” The United States and China are still the largest obstacles to the reaching of an agreement and most agree that they should put their political dreams aside for the good of the human race.
Jo Leinen, a German who represents the E.U. at the conference was at wits end with the China vs. U.S. battle earlier today. “It is unacceptable and no more tolerable that this game is blocking the overall process. Now that China has done some moves, let’s test their seriousness. I don’t see the same commitment, the same signals from the U.S. The one is not yet ready; the other is not willing. We really have a problem,” Leinen was quoted saying. China decided today that they might be willing to commit to lowering emissions after 2020 after all current commitments are met — most likely he was referring to the likely doomed Kyoto Protocol. He mentioned that even after 2020, he believed that poorer nations like China, and its counterparts should be treated differently in the agreement than richer nations, a statement which the United States has already said is not acceptable.
“It is important to keep in mind climate action can happen at a federal level, at a state level and at a local level. The State of California has recently put into place comprehensive climate legislation. If [California] were a country it would be the 8th or 9th largest country in the world,” Jennifer Haverkamp said alluding to the fact that she believes no global agreements will be met, so countries should start creating their own individual, ambitious emissions reductions plans.
Though no large agreement has been met the leaders have managed to agree on steps to limit the destruction of rain forests, assist in the sharing of green technology with developing nations and create a method by which each country’s emissions can be quantified.