Climate change

Reaching an agreement in Durban is our only hope

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2011, 12:00am

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference got underway in Durban, South Africa, on Monday, people around the world are paying increased attention to policymakers' progress in tackling the causes of global warming.

The signs aren't promising. At previous conferences, only very limited concrete outcomes were achieved. We are right to be sceptical about the outcome of this new round of climate talks.

Durban will mark a critical moment in international climate change negotiations. Whatever its outcome, the conference will play an important role in determining the shape of our long-term efforts to tackle climate change.

As the Kyoto Protocol nears its sell-by date next year, the determination of governments' commitment to cut down greenhouse gas emissions is coming under scrutiny.

It is now up to participants in Durban to hammer out a deal that replaces the existing treaty. They need to come up with a new binding agreement for nations covering a second commitment period.

But don't hold your breath. Many climate experts and negotiators certainly aren't.

'My own view is that whatever happens, I don't see all 191 parties under the UN abandoning efforts to develop a comprehensive effort in the longer term for climate change action,' said Adrian Macey, chair of the United Nations Kyoto Protocol negotiations.

Still, the Kyoto Protocol cannot be allowed to just expire. It's the only agreement that lays down key rules for countries to try and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

It also contains essential market-based mechanisms that allow these countries to do so cost-effectively.

After both the Copenhagen and Cancun negotiations failed miserably, immense pressure is placed on the Durban conference to produce a much-needed agreement, which is both fair to countries and legally binding on them.

That is our only hope of alleviating the adverse effects of climate change. Sadly, the UN itself predicts that no deal will be produced. Most observers share the same fear.

As citizens of a global world, it is our duty to set aside our nationalistic mind-set and see what is best for the future of our planet. We have to forget our differences and stop bickering.

We need concrete and sustainable action to tackle climate change as our planet quickly approaches its boiling point.