UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma,
President of the Conference Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
The pact and extension of Kyoto
After a tense discussion over wording, an agreement was made on Sunday December 11th, including over 190 countries to be formalised in 2015 and come into action in 2020. This has been seen as a success by many, including Chris Huhne, as India, China and the US had made it known that they wouldn’t sign an agreement unless other large emitters did also, so it was impressive that they have all agreed to this. As targets have not yet been set, there is also potential for them to be quite strict, something that the EU and the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) have been pushing for.
The extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which was previously set to end in 2012, means that some countries will still have legal obligations up to 2017. This includes the UK and over 30 other industrialised nations, but countries such as the US, who never signed the Kyoto Protocol, are not included, and others such as Japan and Russia who originally signed, have declined to sign this extension.
Criticisms of the Climate Change Pact
The pact still has to be fully formalised, which is set to happen in 2015. This means that up to 2020, when the pact will come into force, many countries only have voluntary, not legal targets, this includes large emitters such as India, China and the US. Some, such as the Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK, claim that the agreement could leave us with 4C average global warming, which “would be catastrophic for people and the natural world.” There is also much that could change between now and 2015, the global economy, national politics, and in particular the US election could all greatly affect the mood of the talks in years to come.
Others have also been critical of the time taken over the wording of the agreement compared with the lack of time spent forming concrete targets. Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists in particular has said “While governments avoided disaster in Durban, they by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change.”
Criticism has also come from developing countries, who argue that as their economic growth is still pulling people out of poverty, the burden of climate change mitigation should fall less heavily on them in the short run. Others warn that the pact may not be strong enough to prevent catastrophic global warming, which would disproportionately impact on poorer countries.
The Green Climate Fund
One way that countries are aiming to combat this disparity between effects of climate change on rich and poor countries is the Green Climate Fund.
Previously discussed in climate talks at Cancun in 2010, the funds official objective is to “promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, taking into account the needs of those developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.”
However, it has not yet been agreed who will contribute to this fund and how it will get to the proposed sum of $100bn annually. This is rather a big hole in the planning given that most developed countries are already running unsustainable budget deficits and are pushing through austerity measures.
Considerations for Green Investment
While a global agreement on terms similar to Kyoto has not be agreed, politicians around the world are moving slowly towards increased cooperation. It is not happening in the timescale many would like, but it is moving and the sentiment at the very least is supportive of environmental companies and carbon markets.
In the short term a possible recession, a credit squeeze and government austerity measures are likely to have a far greater impact on investments in the environmental sphere, but politicians across the globe seem to recognise the importance of industrial change for the world economy in the future.
In the longer term legally binding targets, which will outlive existing governments, are likely to bolster investment. The talks at Durban were a step towards this, but Durban is unlikely to change investor mindsets in the near term given the lack of concrete proposals to date.