December 13, 2011

COP17 Saves Face as Canada Ditches Kyoto

The COP17 climate change conference in Durban finally finished on Sunday a day and a half late. According to the final press release it:

Delivered a breakthrough on the future of the international community's response to climate change, whilst recognizing the urgent need to raise their collective level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

The press release itemises the "breakthrough" decisions as follows:

Governments decided to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, but not later than 2015. Work will begin on this immediately under a new group called the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

Governments, including 35 industrialised countries, agreed a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol from January 1, 2013. To achieve rapid clarity, Parties to this second period will turn their economy-wide targets into quantified emission limitation or reduction objectives and submit them for review by May 1, 2012.

As we reported at the start of the conference, UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne went to Durban to:

Advocate a legally binding agreement under the United Nations.

So what did Chris come back from Durban with?  Well according to a Department of Energy and Climate Change press release:

In a major realignment of support, well over 120 countries formed a coalition behind the EU’s high ambition proposal of a roadmap to a global legally binding deal to curb emissions.

It seems the so called breakthrough is not in fact "a global legally binding deal" but merely "a deal to do a deal" as the Guardian puts it.  Another article from the Guardian, this time on the topic of "Europe's hopeless last stand in defence of the single currency", quotes second US president John Adams approvingly:

While all other sciences have advanced over the ages, that of government "is little better practised now than three thousand years ago".

That sums things up nicely for me too. Whilst Chris Huhne and the other COP17 delegates were slapping each other on the back, according to Reuters Canadian climate minister Peter Kent had this to say:

Kyoto for Canada is in the past … We are invoking our legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto.


Canada kept quiet during the Durban talks so as not to be a distraction.

Whilst all this hot air was being emitted in talking shops around the world some other news concerning climate change has been published. According to the Independent today:

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.

The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Now seems as good a time as any to remind the latest ad hoc climate change working group that back in September a number of engineering institutions from around the planet sent a message of their own to COP17:

The technology needed to cut the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2050 already exists.

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