Durban is finished, now what?
In the early hours of Sunday morning the Durban Climate summit that had been running into overtime finished and the South African host were pleased to declare that we got a deal.
While the EU and the big players including USA, China and India were very happy with the deal and said it was a major step forward, the deal was quickly deemed an environmental defeat and unambitious. It is a deal that will leave us on path to runaway climate change say environmental groups including Greenpeace, WWF & Friends of the Earth.
So what does the deal include? Not a lot to be honest, it’s pretty simple, it’s a deal about a deal. The deal is to be concluded from now and until 2015 and no later than that, a legally binding deal will have to have be agreed that will then come into force by 2020. A green climate fund that was first promised in Copenhagen were also agreed, though the fund is empty and no one really knows where the money will come from and who will administrate it.
Just before the talks started a new stark warning were given to us by scientists that CO2 emissions must peak in the next five years if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change not exceeding the 2 degrees mark.
So based on the warning, by adding 2 and 2 together, everyone can see this deal doesn’t make sense. If we first have a legally binding deal by 2020, which is after the date that scientists have warned us emissions must peak what we must ask ourselves is it possible to have emissions on a global level peaking before then?
To be honest that’s one big question mark. Naturally and rightly NGO’s are critical about the deal. But a lot will depend on the deal, and at the moment I’m afraid to say it doesn’t look too positive. Here is what I think needs to happen before 2020:
1) We keep thinking that CO2 emissions are from the burning of greenhouse gasses, but what we must not forget the emissions accountable from rapid deforestation. When we talk about deforestation, a common generalization is that we talk about The Amazon, but there are many places globally where deforestation is happening at an accelerating level, from the Indonesian rainforest to Borneo and Congo, and also Canada due to their Tar Sands destruction. If we could deal with these issues and drastically halt deforestation along with reforestation campaigns we would cut a lot of the emissions and at the same time help the biodiversity of these fragile regions.
2) We need to protect the Arctic. The Antarctica and Arctic literally have the same function, but only the Antarctica is protected. A geopolitical war seems to be looming in the Arctic, as geologists believe there is vast amount of gas and oil reserves there. There is also a dispute about the borders of unclaimed land between all the Arctic nations ,which are: Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada and USA. Both Denmark and Russia want to lay claim on the North Pole with Russia controversially having planted a Russian flag on the seabed. The last 2 seasons Cairn Energy have controversially been drilling for oil off the coast of Greenland, without finding anything, but by doing so have poured a lot of chemicals into the sea, that will threaten the biodiversity in the region including Greenland’s biggest industry which is fishing. They have also been seen to manually melt icebergs as if it wasn’t happening quickly enough. On the basis of this Greenpeace have campaigned heavily against them.
3) The Canadian Tar Sands is the dirties and most energy intensive energy project in the world and have been described by Nasa scientist and climatologist James Hansen as the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. The keystone pipeline that’s currently have been put on hold by Obama, needs to cancelled completely and Tar Sands to gradually be phased out. Although with Canada’s and US’s position climate change that is unlikely to happen.
4) The largest emitters of CO2 China, India, USA, Russia etc. need to build their green energy revolution with rapid speed. If the EU tomorrow were to be carbon neutral if wouldn’t really matter much on a global scale if the big emitters were not tackling the problem.
5) A lot will also depend how well renewable energy will develop in the next few years. Especially as some countries are drastically cutting the feed in tariff, that was meant to make homeowners invest in small scale renewables to power their homes. This has hit the solar industry quite hard, but will it recover? And will solar, wind and other renewable be competitive with fossil fuels? Will largely unproven technologies like tidal and wave finally take off?
6) EU is playing a leading role and did so again at Durban. EU climate change secretary Connie Hedegaard literally brokered the deal and without her there wouldn’t have been a deal. She admits a lot of developments will need to happen before 2020 and she says the EU will continue to set tough ambitions for it’s member states. She says: ‘What EU does other countries follow’.