In Durban, South Africa, world officials and diplomats decided to do nothing about climate change. Although China produces per capita emissions that are four times lower than those of the United States, it should not ignore the fact that these emissions are already above the world average. Meanwhile, the US blames China for the rise in its aggregate emissions and refuses to make any commitments to reduce its own emissions. In Durban, rich countries pledged money, but also more carbon dioxide. Latin American countries took a variety of positions.
The Seventeenth International Climate Change Summit (Conference of Parties (COP-17)), which ended last month in Durban, should have forged a strong international agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which will expire in 2012.
The Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in December 1997 and came into force in February 2005 after ratification by the Russian Federation. The US signed the agreement but it was not ratified by any of the successive administrations of Clinton, Bush and Obama. The Kyoto Protocol has tried unsuccessfully to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from most polluting countries by at least 5% between 2008 and 2012 as compared to 1990.
The agreement of the COP-17 calls for the negotiation of a “protocol, a legal instrument or a legally binding result” in 2015, which limits emissions by all countries “from 2020” onwards. That is, the “ball” – or rather the planet – is kicked forward into the abyss.
Over time, aggregate carbon emissions are increasing. Globally, annual growth rates were 3.3% in the seventies, 2% in the eighties, 1.2% in the nineties, and 2.5% in 2000s. There were reductions in the emissions growth rate in 1980-1982, in 1992, and during the economic crisis of 2008-2009. The concentration of parts per million (ppm) of CO2, the most important indicator to measure climate change in the atmosphere, also rises. Worldwide, between 1970 and 2010, the average concentration increased from 325.7 to 389.8 ppm, i.e., 0.6% per year, according to measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory, in Hawaii.
Sometimes, officials and diplomats gather and talk, but they produce agreements that are useless or even exacerbate the problems. It is only a lot of talk. So it is with climate change.