Durban result: A ten-year delay in global greenhouse pollution reductions

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Feature Story - 2011-12-12
The agreement finalized at U.N. climate talks in Durban means that China still has almost a decade before it will significantly slow its rate of greenhouse pollution.

Greenpeace activists

Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International spoke to hundreds of activists who occupied the International Convention Center in Durban where COP 17 was taking place. Greenpeace joined scores of campaigners from across the world at a protest in the conference centre. Kumi, along with nine other Greenpeace activists, had his UN accreditation badge removed, meaning he could not re-enter the site during the remainder of the UN climate conference.

The Durban climate talks, which concluded at 5am Sunday, produced a deal for the 194 nations involved to agree to continue to negotiate on reversing climate change. For now, it lays out a loose plan for developing countries, like China, to fall under an international and legally binding treaty by 2020.

"We have mixed feelings about the final result," said Li Yan, head of the climate and energy team at Greenpeace East Asia. "We watched with interest China's flexibility in this round of talks, but, from a global perspective, it was an arduous round of negotiations to end up with a promise for a decade in the future."

Li added that Sunday's agreement marks the first time that major developing countries, like China and India, have been willing to talk about legally binding targets for their own economies. Disagreements over climate targets and equity between developed and developing countries have been an ongoing sticking point for progress.

"Having China and India willing to act is at least a small step forward," Li said. "Still, wealthy developed countries, like Canada, the U.S. and some European nations must push their own ambition levels over the next few years if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A decade is still a lot of time to wait for action."

China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse pollution in the world. Greenpeace is calling on all nations to live up to their commitments. It is also calling on the Chinese government to do much more work domestically to prepare for a development path over the next decade that does not rely so heavily on coal and increases its current renewable and energy efficiency targets.


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