On this second to last day of COP17, a new piece of the puzzle that explains why this year’s United Nation Climate Talks are likely to end in a stalemate tomorrow, has emerged. Developing nations from around the world are whole-heartedly resisting the notion that a carbon market could be part of their individual solutions. In a media conference with Jeff Hayward, director of the ClimateProgram at the Rainforest Alliance, the issue of developing nations buying into a system of measuring, reporting and marketing carbon has just manifested as one of the many cruxes of the debate. Though in the press the big players like the United States and China have been getting all of the negative light, it seems that everyone at the table is looking to cool the Earth in a way that suits their own personal demands.
Issues surrounding climate justice abound today in Durban. The most debated issue is the one that exists between the U.S. and China. The U.S. wants China to be treated like the giant emitter that it is — the biggest in the world, in fact — and China wants to be treated as the emerging nation that it is. Japan and Canada have mentioned that they are out of the discussion of extending the Kyoto Protocol beyond it’s 2012 end date and the EU says that they’ll not be the only ones to sign a commitment.
According to Hayward, “effectively the Kyoto Protocol goes into a coma in 2012. How do we put in place an agreement that all the countries will sign up to, where there will be legally binding commitment to reducing carbon emissions?” Heading into the final day of the talks, the largest issues that remain include what starting level future emissions will be reduced from; how much each individual country will need to reduce emissions; according to what timeline will they need to reduce those emissions; and what kind of an agency will oversee all of this.
There has been a unanimous decision that a Green Climate Fund of at least $100 billion per year should be set up to fund carbon reduction in the developing world. The richest nations are squabbling over where that money should come from in the midst of a difficult economic time, how it should be delivered to developing countries, and in what form and how the program should be monitored. Many developed countries are saying that this fund should come with a carbon market attached to it as well as a system of monitoring and analyzing carbon data from the developing nations receiving aid. Some developed nations would also like to see some sort of merit based program where the better a country uses their Green Climate Fund cash and the more emissions reductions they make, the more cash they’ll get in the future. Many developing nations at the table say that some, or all, of these ideas are completely off the table and stand in the way of reaching any sort of agreement.
“What we definitely see is that there is a patchwork right now of structures that exist in agreements between countries, agreements within the countries as to their own cap and trade systems, carbon taxes, performance standards and low emissions development strategies. Those things are still moving forward and they are going to deliver climate reductions whether or not the UNFCCC (COP17) negotiations succeed or not,” Hayward said when asked about what the future looks like after another failed COP conference. Hayward wouldn’t give up hope that someday the world’s leaders could come to some sort of agreement on a global strategy, he realizes it won’t happen this year but he believes it is imperative.
“To have the types of ambitious reductions that are needed to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius — which is already considered a dangerous amount of global warming — there really needs to be an international legally binding agreement,” Hayward said.
“What seems to be happening is that is is going to take a lot longer than we all thought and it is going to be hard to get a country like the United States to commit to ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions when there are significant political hurdles to overcome domestically. It is going to be difficult to get the EU to commit while it is facing a financial crises of it’s own.”
Hayward then noted that though the developed nations seem to be the focus of the argument it has been shown that emissions are going to start coming increasingly from emerging nations around the world making it imperative that the issues of climate justice and the specifics of the Green Climate Fund get worked out.
Though the United States and the European Union have the burden of past climate emissions on their backs, they now have the resources — financially and technologically — to reduce those emissions on their own accord, if they’re willing. In order for poorer nations to join that fight they’ll have to be helped along with financing and technology from the bigger players, it’s just simply cheaper to dig up some coal and burn it than to invest in an infrastructure for renewable energy. The obvious dilemma is that everyone at the table is going to have to back off of at least one of their hard line stances, but there is only one day left this year for someone to take the first step and let the rest of the world follow. Hayward is more optimistic that this year the global leaders are forging a pathway to make way for a future binding agreement that will be reached in the Climate Talks to come.
“The cost of the advancing dangers of climate change get greater every year. The investment gets more substantial every year. The negotiators all know this but how they sell it back at home with their own country’s, their own budgets, senates and parliaments is completely a different story,” Hayward said before closing out the conference by noting, “It is always a lot easier to put off for future generations to deal with the problems of today.”