28 November 2012

Africa: COP 18 Gets Underway in Doha As Kyoto Protocol Winds Down

Photo: AllAfrica.com
Learners at a Durban primary school presented their messages to COP 17 delegates (file photo).

opinion

The UN Climate Conference, COP 18, gets underway this week in Doha, as the Kyoto Protocol winds down and is set to expire by the end of this year. COP 18 is unlikely to emerge with a suitable replacement for Kyoto, as yearly climate talks grind on and disagreements about emissions reductions continue to foil any meaningful agreement that would halt global warming.

Kyoto set binding targets for industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% against 1990 levels, reports Voice of America. While the protocol has not been adhered to by industrialised nations and is, as a result, considered a failure, Green Peace activist Ruth Davis, argues that it is a vital tool because the principles embedded in it are essential to a new international treaty.

As the disagreements between the industrialised world and emerging economies continue to stall any meaningful climate deal, Professor Dieter Helm, professor of environmental policy at Oxford University contends that by 2020 "there will be 400-600 gigawatts of new coal on the world's system and we'll be way beyond 400 parts per million."

Editor's Note: In a recently released report, Turn Down the Heat, The World Bank warns that global temperatures are set to rise by 4% by the end of the century, and possibly even sooner by 2060. The report is widely referenced by the media to highlight the dangers of global warming, but Simon Butler of Green Left Weekly points out that the World Bank should take its own advice when it comes to global warming. He contends:

In practice, World Bank investments in fossil fuels around the world are turning the heat up. For example, the bank is funding a new brown coal-fired plant in Kosovo. Brown coal is the most polluting fossil fuel. In 2010, the World Bank loaned $3.75 billion to build a giant 4.8 gigawatt coal-fired power plant - one of world's biggest - in South Africa. That year, the Bank Information Centre said the World Bank's funding of coal hit "a record high of $4.4 billion". NGO Christian Aid said the bank's funding of coal had increased 40-fold over the previous 5 years.

Meanwhile Democracy Now! reports, "The United States on Monday resisted calls for deeper emissions cuts, saying the Obama administration would hold fast to a 2009 pledge to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The statement came despite a plea by poorer countries for greater action to help the world avoid more severe storms, droughts and rising ocean levels."

For those in doubt about the effects of global warming, the Extreme Ice Survey project documents the speed at which glaciers are melting in the Arctic. The project led to the making of the documentary, Chasing Ice, which has won numerous awards at international film festivals. For haunting images of melting ice, watch the trailer on the documentary's official website.

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