Small ray of hope for future

Updated: 2011-12-12 08:00

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Small ray of hope for future

Small ray of hope for future

Durban roadmap offers some cheer but much work still needs to be done and developed nations must do their bit

The flexibility all parties have shown to reach an agreement at the end of the Durban climate summit offers a glimmer of hope for our children and grandchildren.

Finally, 36 hours after the scheduled finish, the negotiators are leaving Durban, and they are not leaving empty handed, as all parties agreed to a deal to continue the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and the Green Climate Fund was officially launched.

Given the differences between developed and developing nations, there is reason enough to hail what has been achieved.

As Xie Zhenhua, head of the Chinese delegation said, the outcome is in line with the mandate of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol and the Bali Roadmap. The outcome, he added, is also in line with the two-track negotiation process and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

What the agreement shows is the acknowledgement by all countries that global warming is undoubtedly affecting the climate on Earth and thus affecting the lives of everyone.

The world cannot afford to ignore the fact that extreme weather conditions are becoming increasingly common threatening the lives of many and if temperatures continue to rise future generations will find it very difficult to live on this planet.

The UN World Meteorological Organization warned that 13 of the warmest years recorded have occurred within last 15 years and the year 2011 caps a decade that ties for the record as the hottest ever measured and a study by German scientists released in Durban said that current carbon pledges would result in a warming of 3.5 degrees Celsius compared to the UN target of 2 C.

But while the agreement does offer a little hope, there is little reason for optimism, as after nearly 14 days of bruising talks it is clear that not all governments have the political will to address climate change and to take the necessary actions to curb emissions in their own countries, not to mention extending a helping hand to other countries. The new accord will be finally approved in 2015, but not implemented until 2020, which means there is still much to be done before all major emitters are legally bound to actions that will effectively implement the new pact.

And the coffers of the Green Fund are still empty, it remains to be seen whether the developed countries honor their promises and whether the UN will be able to make it work effectively.

The days of wrangling in Durban have again revealed the lack of political will from some developed countries and their willingness to ignore their historical responsibilities and the fact that they have shifted the bulk of their manufacturing to developing countries.

If the major developed countries continue to take this stance, further talk and little or no action can be expected in the coming years.

And if major developing countries such as China, India and Brazil are required to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the same way as their developed counterparts, their goal of improving the lives of millions or even billions of people and lifting people out of poverty - in China alone, there are 128 million poverty-stricken rural villagers - will be in jeopardy.

Financial aid and technological support from developed countries are essential to developing countries if they are to reduce their emissions while maintaining the growth necessary to lift people out of poverty.

Research from the Stockholm Environment Institute shows that developing countries are already doing more than their fair share, with their pledges amounting to more reductions than the promises made by their rich counterparts. China has expressed on many occasions that it is willing to do its bit in contributing to the cause of cutting emissions and its energy consumption per capita decreased 16.1 percent from 2005 to 2010, which means at least 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions were cut.

However, if the legally binding greenhouse emission cuts in major developing counties are to be achieved, without being at the expense of the millions of residents living in destitution, developed countries must extend helping hands.

The fight against global warming is pressing for all nations and everyone on the planet, so major nations need to commit to the battle as a matter of urgency.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 12/12/2011 page8)