The United Nations Climate Change Conference brought together representatives of the world's governments, international organizations and civil society in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November-11 December. It aimed at reaching an international agreement for a truly global emission reduction regime.
High on the agenda was the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legal climate change treaty, committing 37 industrialised countries including Europe to reduce global warming pollution over the five-year period 2008-2012.
However, since the treaty was negotiated in 1997, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by over a quarter, mainly in developing countries, which are now responsible for 58% of the total.
UN climate talks rekindled the controversy amongst those nations demanding faster action to avoid climate change impact and those lobbying for a delay in negotiations.
While Africa strongly pushed for extending the life of the Kyoto Protocol, Japan, Russia and Canada, all signatories of the original treaty, stated that they would not re-commit to the agreement unless the big polluters, including the US and China, sign up. For its part, the US kept asking for a commitment from emerging countries, such as India and China, to cut greenhouse gas emissions as a prerequisite to any agreement. But China was refusing to accept any binding international obligations in this area.
In this context, the European Union pursued the application of a roadmap for a new global agreement on climate change covering all nations by 2020 at latest. The Alliance of Small Island States together with the Least Developed Countries bloc also backed the EU proposal.
Eventually, negotiators ended a marathon session on 11 December with an agreement to work towards the roadmap proposal, that is, the implementation of a binding treaty covering all nations. The terms now need to be agreed by 2015 and come into effect from 2020.
Additionally, a fund for climate aid (rising to $100bn per year by 2020) to developing nations to help them move to a green economy was also agreed, even though there is no agreement on where the money should come from.
EI firmly supports the process of working towards a new post-Kyoto agreement, as underlined in the EI Resolution: Education Unions Mobilising on Climate Change passed at the recent EI Congress in Cape Town.
EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, stated: “Solving the climate and economic crises requires unprecedented cooperation and bold leadership by governments worldwide. Rich countries must stop passing the buck and recognise their responsibilities. “
Van Leeuwen praised teachers’ initiatives towards a new green society including writing green curricula, planting community gardens, recycling and composting at school level, and helping kids create energy-saving science projects: “All of these initiatives clearly illustrate the old saying about how people are often ahead of politicians. On the issue of climate change, public educators are at the vanguard. ”
Click here to see a video of Greenpeace Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, addressing media before being thrown out of the Durban Conference.