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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change, Environmental Politics, Key COP17 Issues, Student Research » A Glimmer of Hope

A Glimmer of Hope

By: Christine Burns ’14

Talks here at Durban have seemed pretty grim over the past two weeks, but maybe something will come together in the final hour!  At the beginning of the COP the EU proposed a “road map” that might be able to pacify countries like the US.  The road map is a plan to incorporate all major economies in a legal agreement by 2015.  This means that countries like China and India which are major emitters not covered in the Kyoto Protocol would be bound to commit to emissions reductions in some form by 2015.  In return the EU promises to sign up for the second commitment period of Kyoto.

Over the past few days, this proposal has won support from 120 of the 193 countries party to the negotiations.  Included in the 120 countries are the US, Canada, and Brazil.  Obviously China and India are not thrilled with this proposal, but the leader of the Chinese delegation,  Xie Zhenhua, said that China was willing to consider legally binding agreements if KP II was signed and financial aid for low emissions development was provided. This is a huge step forward, because the US has been holding out on Kyoto, because it did not include such large high emitting economies as China.  If China is willing to be party to this than the US will have to join.  The US has expressed its support.  Jonathan Pershing, the leader of the US delegation spoke on the road map saying, “We’re not looking for a mechanism in which we would have an obligation to reduce emissions of a legal form and the major emerging economies would have a voluntary program.  That’s kind of the Kyoto structure.  We are not a party to Kyoto, in no small measure, because of that constraint.”  If the road map maintains its current form, the US should sign on.  The small island states are skeptical that the US will follow through.  Chairman of the Alliance for Small Island States Karl Hood said in response to Stern’s comment that the US did not want to block negotiations, “Thank you, Mr Stern. Let me see that in a negotiating room. Let me see that in the (negotiating) text.”

I am not sure how the negotiations are going to go tonight, but if this road map is agreed upon, I would consider that relative progress.  Unfortunately, it is yet another agreement where the action agreed upon is to take action at a later date.  I do not know how many more times parties can reasonably expect to delay action.  I will say that my perception of the negotiations to date has been pretty negative, and an agreement that would help resolve some of the areas of disagreement with Kyoto, and provide a definitive date does sound promising.  I am starting to feel that each year everyone goes in with a set of expectations, and by the end of the two weeks, these expectations have been lowered to the point where any agreement would be considered a success.  In order for this road map agreement to be considered a success it needs to have concrete goals, and a framework that can quantitatively measure its success.

Works Cited:

Blain, Sue, Loyiso Langeni, Jocelyn Newmarch, Sara Wild, and Roy downing. “BusinessDay – COP-17: Climate Talks See Some Sign of Progress.” Home – BusinessDay. Web. 09 Dec. 2011. <>.

Joselow, Gabe. “EU Claims Progress on Climate ‘roadmap’ at COP17 in Durban – Eco – The Sofia Echo.” The Sofia Echo – Latest News, Business, Sports, Comments and Reviews from Bulgaria and South-Eastern Europe. VOA News. Web. 09 Dec. 2011. <>.

“The Press Association: EU Seeking Climate Deal ‘road Map'” Google. Web. 09 Dec. 2011. <>.

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