UN Climate Talks: The Highlights Reel

All you need to know about this year’s round, without going all the way to South Africa

Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace

Despite the Iwo Jima imagery, there are few signs of victory for climate activists in Durban.

The 194 nations that, for nearly 20 years, have been hashing out prospects for putting the brakes on global warming, are at it again — this time in Durban, South Africa. Whereas at one time the world was looking to the US for leadership on a climate solution, the theme of Week One appeared to be the emergence of the US as an obstructionist force in the process.

Sun: Activists wasted no time in creating iconic images for the conference (see photo).

Mon: Expectations are set at “Low” for the 17th Conference of the Parties. Reid Detchon, VP of Energy and Climate for the UN Foundation, calls them “a transition phase.” There’s a dawning acceptance that the original concept for an agreement, modeled on the Montreal Protocol, which has worked well for reducing ozone-depleting gases, isn’t gonna fly for the climate issue.

Tue: “Substantive negotiations” begin after two days of preliminary activity. Environmental groups and shipping companies make a joint call for action at the summit to address stack emissions from merchant ships (currently reported to be about three-percent of total emissions).

Wed: 16 NGOs hold news conference to bash the US for not playing well with others, and urge the US “to not stand in the way.” Nations have trouble agreeing on arrangements for a Green Climate Fund to help developing countries reduce emissions and cope with climate impacts. If you’re playing catch-up with this concept, Reuters has a handy backgrounder. The US and Saudi Arabia appear to be the major obstacles.

Thu: NGO’s raise concerns that proposed changes to Brazil’s forest regulations might keep it from meeting its own emissions goals.

Fri: Major emitters essentially bigfoot the EU’s proposal for a climate roadmap to replace the expiring Kyoto treaty. The idea is floated of abandoning a new treaty in favor of a non-binding agreement.

Sat: Thousands march through the streets of Durban, demanding faster progress toward some kind of meaningful, coordinated climate action. The marchers may have been moving forward but as Tasneen Essop, head of climate strategy for the WWF put it, “After six days of talks, we seem to be moving backward, not forward.”

Week Two holds every prospect of being just as productive, which is to say, not very.

Despite annual predictions of the demise of the UN climate process, yes, there will be a COP18, next year in Qatar. The Persian Gulf state just happens to hold the record for most carbon emissions per capita.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1447293072 Anonymous

    I don’t think that anything will be resolved until citizens take the decision to act out of the hands of governments and politicians.   I am not sure how we finally do that.  The sessions in Durban don’t even rate a mention on the national evening news.

    Guess we just have to know how Kim Kardashian is holding up following her divorce.