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Africa: Climate Change Updates

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Dec 7, 2011 (111207)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Rich countries must hear loud and clear that Africa won't pay for their crisis. Developed countries are trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol. They want to turn back the clock to 1997 and shift responsibility for the climate crisis they created onto the developing countries already bearing the brunt of climate change." - Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains four recent documents on climate change, selected from the plethora of commentaries as the climate change summit in Durban moves into its final days. These are (1) a brief statement released today by the Friends of the Earth International, (2) a press release from the Global Carbon Project showing that fossil fuel emissions rebounded with a 5.9% growth rate in 2010, and that rates of increase over the last decade averaged 3.1% a year, three times the rate of increase during the 1990s, (3) an overview statement of the issues at stake released before the Durban conference by a coalition of NGOs including the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and the Third World Network, and (4) an article from the Canadian environmental site Mongabay noting the particularly damaging results of recent Canadian and U.S. policy, both on the tar sands project and on climate issues more generally.

Another Bulletin released today, available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/clim1112b.php but not sent out by e-mail, contains the text of Chapter 2, with an overview of carbon trading in Africa to date as well as a review of pending projects.

Additional recent useful background documents, too long to include here, include (1) a very useful general background report from Southern Africa Report, stressing the critical role of China (available for download at http://allafrica.com/view/resource/main/main/id/00021983.html , and (2) a report by Oxfam on the consequences of climate change for food security (available at http://tinyurl.com/86lsasb).

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on climate change and the environment, with much additional background, visit http://www.africafocus.org/envexp.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Climate Talks: Durban Inaction a Recipe for Climate Catastrophe

7 December 2011

Friends of the Earth International

Media Advisory

Durban, South Africa, 7 December 2011 - Friends of the Earth International has issued strong warnings against climate inaction at the UN climate talks in Durban, and blamed industrialised countries like the US, Canada, Japan and Europe for seeking to unravel existing agreements under the guise of a "new mandate" for the climate negotiations.

As global leaders arrive today for the final three days of talks, the international grassroots environmental organisation has pointed to the highly destructive agenda of developed countries, including the EU, which have so far failed in Durban to propose any ambitious emission reductions and any suitable finance and technology support to developing countries.

Friends of the Earth International has called on developing countries to resist the push from the rich industrialised world to tear up existing commitments. A new mandate - which means not implementing existing obligations - would lock in ten years of inaction and set the world squarely on a course for climate catastrophe.

"Rich countries must hear loud and clear that Africa won't pay for their crisis. Developed countries are trying to kill the Kyoto Protocol. They want to turn back the clock to 1997 and shift responsibility for the climate crisis they created onto the developing countries already bearing the brunt of climate change. Anything less than strong legally-binding emissions reductions for developed countries under a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol must be understood for what it is - a mandate to burn Africa and our people" said Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International.

"This talk of a new treaty is a ruse to distract the world from the failure of developed countries to deliver on their existing commitments to cut emissions. We don't need a new mandate, a mandate already exists. A new mandate will open the door to climate deregulation where polluters continue to pollute, speculators profit from pollution, and the rest of the world carries the burden of the climate crisis" said Meena Raman of Friends of the Earth Malaysia.

The EU has driven the call for a new mandate but it is advancing a wider agenda of rich industrialised countries like the US, Japan and Canada to escape from the current system of legally-binding emissions reduction targets for those countries which have caused the climate crisis -- and shift responsibility onto developing countries. Meanwhile, countries are using the international climate negotiations to drive forward false and dangerous solutions to climate change like the expansion of carbon trading.

"It is clear what is driving this agenda. More and more countries are coming to the international climate talks with one objective in mind: to defend and advance the economic interests of their polluting industries and multinational corporations and resist the global effort for a strong and fair agreement to tackle climate change. Many civil society groups are calling Durban a conference of polluters. We cannot let the polluters win and lock in a decade of inaction on the climate crisis. Africa must stand strong on behalf of the people of Africa and the people of the world," said Bobby Peek of Friends of the Earth South Africa.

For more information

http://www.foei.org/media

Friends of the Earth International media line: +27 791 097 223 (South African number valid only until Dec.10) or +31-6-5100 5630 (Dutch mobile) or email:media@foei.org

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International: +234 803 727 4395 (Nigerian mobile) or +27 (0) 71 63 92 542 (South African mobile valid only until Dec.10), email:nnimmo@eraction.org

Bobby Peek, Director of Friends of the Earth South Africa / groundWork: +27 824 641 383 (South African mobile), email:bobby@groundwork.org.za

Meena Raman, Friends of the Earth Malaysia:+27(0)72 26 18 870 (valid until Dec. 9)

Friends of the Earth International media line Tel: +27-79-10 97 223 (S.Afr. mobile valid Nov.28-Dec.9 only)
or +31-6-5100 5630 (Dutch mobile) or email:media@foei.org


Global carbon emissions reach record 10 billion tonnes - threatening two degree target

December 4, 2011

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/ / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/d97x9jn

Global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased by 49 per cent in the last two decades, according to the latest figures by an international team, including researchers at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia (UEA).

Published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, the new analysis by the Global Carbon Project shows fossil fuel emissions increased by 5.9 per cent in 2010 and by 49 per cent since 1990 - the reference year for the Kyoto protocol.

On average, fossil fuel emissions have risen by 3.1 per cent each year between 2000 and 2010 - three times the rate of increase during the 1990s. They are projected to continue to increase by 3.1 per cent in 2011.

Total emissions - which combine fossil fuel combustion, cement production, deforestation and other land use emissions - reached 10 billion tonnes of carbon1 in 2010 for the first time. Half of the emissions remained in the atmosphere, where CO2 concentration reached 389.6 parts per million. The remaining emissions were taken up by the ocean and land reservoirs, in approximately equal proportions.

Rebounding from the global financial crisis of 2008-09 when emissions temporarily decreased, last year's high growth was caused by both emerging and developed economies. Rich countries continued to outsource part of their emissions to emerging economies through international trade.

Contributions to global emissions growth in 2010 were largest from China, the United States, India, the Russian Federation and the European Union. Emissions from the trade of goods and services produced in emerging economies but consumed in the West increased from 2.5 per cent of the share of rich countries in 1990 to 16 per cent in 2010.

In the UK, fossil fuel CO2 emissions grew 3.8 per cent in 2010 but were 14 per cent below their 1990 levels. However, emissions from the trade of goods and services grew from 5 per cent of the emissions produced locally in 1990 to 46 per cent in 2010 - overcompensating the reductions in local emissions. Emissions in the UK were 20 per cent above their 1990 levels when emissions from trade are taken into account.

"Global CO2 emissions since 2000 are tracking the high end of the projections used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which far exceed two degrees warming by 2100," said co-author Prof Corinne Le Qu´r´ director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor at the University of East Anglia. "Yet governments have pledged to keep warming below two degrees to avoid the most dangerous aspects of climate change such as widespread water stress and sea level rise, and increases in extreme climatic events.

"Taking action to reverse current trends is urgent."

Lead author Dr Glen Peters, of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway, said: "Many saw the global financial crisis as an opportunity to move the global economy away from persistent and high emissions growth, but the return to emissions growth in 2010 suggests the opportunity was not exploited."

Co-author Dr Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, added: "The global financial crisis has helped developed countries meet their production emission commitments as promised in the Kyoto Protocol and Copenhagen Accord, but its impact has been short-lived and pre-existing challenges remain."

'Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis' by GP Peters, G Marland, C Le Quéré, T Boden, JG Canadell and MR Raupach is published online by Nature Climate Change on December 4 2011.

The Global Carbon Project is opening an office at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA in 2012, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The office will support the annual publication of emissions statistics for the atmosphere, ocean and land reservoirs.

For more information, visit
http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget

1Values reported here are in billion tonnes of carbon. To convert emissions to billion tons of CO2, multiply the value by 3.67.


What is at stake in Durban

A civil society analysis of mitigation issues in the climate talks

2011-12-01, Issue 560

http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/78373

* This analysis was jointly prepared by: Asian Indigenous Women's Network, Friends of the Earth EWNI, Friends of the Earth (FoE) US, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), International Forum on Globalization, Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Tebtebba and Third World Network (TWN)

It's a Planetary and Humanitarian Emergency

The world is already reeling from major humanitarian emergencies exacerbated by climate change: floods in Thailand and Pakistan, landslides from extreme rains in many Latin American countries and the multi-year drought in the Horn of Africa that threatens the lives of millions.

Current levels of warming have already begun triggering major 'tipping points' in the Earth's system - such as Arctic methane releases, Amazon dieback and the loss of icesheets. 2 degrees C of warming, as proposed by some governments, threatens to tip a cascade of events that will cause warming to spin out of control. We have known since 1986 that warming 'beyond 1 degrees C may elicit rapid, unpredictable and non-linear responses that could lead to extensive ecosystem damage', the effects of which we're seeing already.

But Rich Countries Risk Climate Anarchy

To address this crisis many countries - particularly developing countries - seek an agreement in Durban based on science, on the existing legally binding and multilateral system reflected in the Climate Convention and its Kyoto Protocol, and on the deal agreed by all countries in the Bali Roadmap.

A handful of wealthy countries - including notably the United States - are now seeking to move the goalposts. They want to dismantle the rules for developed countries' emissions reductions, shift the burden to developing countries and renege on the Bali Roadmap. In the process, they are trying to end the Kyoto Protocol, and even the Convention, and replace it with a weak, ineffective 'pledge and review' system that may take years to negotiate.

Durban, then, is shaping up as a clash of paradigms between those who believe that the world deserves and needs a science- and rules-based multilateral climate system to tackle perhaps the greatest challenge to face humanity, and those who are seeking to dismantle the existing one.

Developed Countries Must Close the Mitigation Gap

To have a good chance of keeping global warming below 2 degrees C - a goal that is by no means safe - annual climate pollution must be about 12Gt lower globally by 2020, according to UNEP. Around 14Gt is likely required to keep warming below 1.5 degrees C.

In Copenhagen, developing countries pledged more than 5Gt of reductions with the support of finance, technology and capacity. They are willing to do their part, subject to delivery of finance, technology and capacity in accordance with the Convention. So to keep warming below 1.5 degrees C a gap remains of around 9Gt (that is, 14 minus 5) for developed countries to reduce.

However, developed countries have offered less than 4Gt of reductions, an effort considerably less ambitious than that offered by developing countries, and despite their 'differentiated responsibilities and capabilities' - that is, their greater role in causing climate change and capacities to address it. Moreover, around 4Gt could be lost in accounting 'loopholes.' Carbon markets would make this outcome even worse. Rich countries may, in other words, make 'no net contribution to reducing emissions by 2020'.

Given how far emission pledges are from what the science requires, negotiations remain dangerously off track. A UNEP report confirms that countries' pledged emission reductions are too weak to avert dangerous climate change, and could cause warming of a catastrophic 5 degrees C. Warming in Africa and other large land-masses would occur at much higher levels, heralding impacts not experienced in the history of human civilization.

The Bargain of the Bali Roadmap must be Kept

Under the Bali Roadmap agreed at the December 2007 UN climate conference, governments agreed to an approach under which all countries (covering 100 percent of global emissions) would contribute to the solution of climate change in accordance with equity, historical responsibility and common but differentiated responsibilities.

Governments agreed to two tracks of negotiations under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. The agreement was that the current system would be maintained as the foundation of the global climate regime, and that we would build around this foundation in an equitable way.

Under the Bali Roadmap, it was understood that:

  • The negotiations to ensure developed countries would adopt a second period of binding emission reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol commencing 2013;
  • The United States, which is the only country to repudiate the Kyoto Protocol, would undertake comparable commitments under the Convention; and
  • Developing countries would undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions, enabled and supported by financing and technology that would be measurable, reportable and verifiable.

The bargain, emphasized consistently by the African Group and many other developing countries, was to maintain the existing rules - including provisions on transparency and compliance under the Kyoto Protocol - and to lift up the standard of other countries (including the United States) through new negotiations under the Convention.

Developed countries were also to honour their long-standing, but largely un-implemented, obligations to enable adaptation and provide substantial financial and technology transfers to developing countries.

Instead: Deregulating the Climate Regime

Rather than honour this plan, many developed countries have now indicated their clear intention to avoid binding obligations to reduce their climate pollution by killing the Kyoto Protocol and replacing it with a weaker 'pledge and review' system. At the same time, they are seeking to retain and expand their favoured elements of the Kyoto Protocol (that is, market mechanisms) into a new agreement, and shift their responsibilities onto developing countries.

A 'pledge and review' system would mean that the rich countries most responsible for the problem would only reduce their emissions according to political pressures at home, not according to the increasingly dire scientific realities. There would be no internationally binding commitments, no comparability of efforts among developed countries, and no assurance of adequate efforts. The system of common rules and international compliance in the Kyoto Protocol that give meaning to these commitments would be abandoned.

Such an approach would effectively deregulate the climate regime and if agreed to in a new treaty, would mean that a deregulated approach is enshrined in international law.

A Durban Mandate for the Great Escape

Anyone following media reports would be forgiven for thinking that the main issue for the Durban climate conference is to agree on a new legally binding treaty. Rich countries have been actively conveying their message in the media, shaping public expectations that Durban should deliver a new treaty, or at least a mandate for one. At the same time, some developing countries have also been calling for a new treaty.

The fine print, however, is that the rich countries want a new treaty that replaces an existing one - the Kyoto Protocol, whereas the least developed and island nations want a new treaty that complements, and sits alongside the Kyoto Protocol, not replaces it. These positions are incompatible.

Developing countries, in other words, want to implement the Bali Roadmap and ensure legally binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, but the developed countries are seeking to do away with all this, through a new mandate. If a new mandate is agreed, it is unlikely the interests of poor countries would prevail. The United States is unlikely to sign on altogether, risking further delay and inaction.

The reality is that the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol that make up the existing legally binding climate architecture desperately needs implementing, not replacing. Developed countries appear progressive by asking for a legally binding treaty or the mandate for one, when the real truth is that they are violating the current legally binding regime, shifting the goalpost agreed in the Bali Roadmap, and reneging on agreements for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

The call for a new mandate for a new treaty in place of the Kyoto Protocol should be understood for what it really is - rich countries backtracking and reneging on inconvenient obligations, at the expense of the poor and the planet. As it has been throughout history, the rich and powerful are re-writing the rules in their favour.

An Elite and Corporate Led Agenda by the 1% for the 1%

Underpinning the shift in the UN climate negotiations towards a 'deregulatory' pledge-based system are vested interests represented in Northern industrialized countries, international financial institutions, multinational corporations and elites in both the North and the South.

The position of the United States in international climate negotiations, for instance, is shaped substantially by its failure to secure domestic climate legislation, which in turn is the result of actions by powerful economic lobbies including the coal, oil, automotive, metals, fertilizer, chemical, agri-business and other special interests, and the lobbyists and politicians they fund in Washington.

Vested interests have opposed not merely domestic legislation and international emission reduction pledges, but also any curbs on emissions that would affect their interests. Some are architects of the effort to deny climate change altogether, attacking climate scientists and limiting public understanding of the necessity of climate action. More than undermining the current inadequate pledges - which could lead the world to over 5 degrees C of global warming - they seek to stop any effective action on climate change at all.

What Must Happen in Durban

Negotiations on further commitments for Annex I Parties have continued since 2005 with no clear commitment by Annex I countries that they will fulfil their legal obligations.

The time for ensuring there is no 'gap' between the first and second periods of the Kyoto Protocol has run out - the moment of truth has arrived. Developed countries must now commit to a legal, not political, second commitment period of the Protocol.

Europe must stand up and be counted as a leader among developed countries, to join with developing countries in calling for an outcome that increases ambition, addresses the hard issues left off the table in Cancun, honours the promises made in Bali, and builds on - rather than dismantles - the climate system built since the Convention was agreed in 1992.

Europe, which has in the past tried to give leadership where other developed countries had been wanting, is now hedging, hoping to benefit from the dishonourable action of Canada, Japan, Russia, US, and others who are seeking to destroy the Kyoto Protocol, while avoiding the blame. It is time for Europe to be a true leader.

All developed countries must recommit to the Bali Roadmap, which covers 100 percent of global emissions through three pillars:

  1. Binding cuts for Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol;
  2. Comparable efforts for the United States under the Convention; and
  3. Appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries, supported by finance, technology and capacity.

Key Outcomes for Mitigation from Durban

  • Parties must formally commit to conclude negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol, through an amendment of its Annex B. To ensure there is no gap between the first and second commitment period, as legally required by the Protocol negotiations, provisional application of the second commitment period must be agreed, pending entry into force. African governments have said there is 'No Plan B' on the Kyoto Protocol. Durban must not be the burial ground of the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Negotiations under the Protocol must close the 'mitigation gap' between developed countries' pledges and what science and equity require. Developed countries must show leadership, put aside the interests of their polluting corporations, and re-commit to an ambitious second commitment period. Europe must lead the developed countries, and not continue to use delaying tactics.
  • Developed countries must not shift the burden to developing countries through carbon markets, or through using loopholes such as creative land-use accounting and surplus allowances. Current proposals for mitigation, markets and loopholes threaten not merely the negotiations but the global effort to tackle climate change.
  • The United States, as the only developed country non-party to the Kyoto Protocol, must commit to do its fair share and take on comparable efforts under the Convention, including ambitious, legally binding, economy-wide emission reduction commitments.
  • Long-term sources and scale of finance commencing in 2013 must be agreed in Durban, for both mitigation and adaptation, and a process for determining how much finance is 'necessary for implementation of the Convention' including mitigation actions by developing countries.
  • Finance must be provided through a Green Climate Fund that is accountable to all countries under the Conference of Parties that supports developing countries not private corporations. Any 'private sector facility' is to be opposed.

These elements must be part of an ambitious package on all issues that strengthens the global climate architecture, serves the interests of people not polluters, and supports the transformational change required for a more just and safe world. The world is watching: Durban must deliver for the 99 percent.


Africa, China call out Canada for climate betrayal

Jeremy Hance

December 01, 2011

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1201-hance_canada_climate.html

Purchasing a full page ad in the Canadian paper the Globe and Mail, a group of African leaders and NGOs is calling on Canada to return to the fold on climate change. Canada has recently all-but-confirmed that after the ongoing 17th UN Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, it will withdraw entirely from the Kyoto Treaty. The country has missed its targets by a long-shot, in part due to the exploitation of its tar sands for oil, and is increasingly viewed at climate conferences as intractable and obstructive. In the eyes of those concerned about climate change, Canada has gone from hero to villain. Yet notable African activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are pushing back.

"Canada, you were once considered a leader on global issues like human rights and environmental protection. Today you're home to polluting tar sands oil, speeding the dangerous effects of climate change," the ad in the Globe and Mail reads. "For us in Africa, climate change is a life and death issue. By dramatically increasing Canada's global warming pollution, tar sands mining and drilling makes the problem worse, and exposes millions of Africans to more devastating drought and famine today and in the years to come."

Tar sands trouble

As the ad points out, Canada's exploitation of the tar sands has moved from a largely Canadian issue to a global one. Massive protests in the US, including civil disobedience that led to the arrest of 1,252 people, effectively stalled a pipeline that would have brought tar sands' oil from Canada down to Texas refineries - and a global market. Now, the EU is currently mulling action that would officially deem tar sands' oil more environmentally destructive than conventional oil, essentially making sale of tar sands' oil in the EU improbable.

Extracting oil from the tar sands is both energy and water intensive. The oil - which exists in the form of bitumen and is mixed with clay, water, and sand - must be extracted from the ground with hot water and upgraded by using a high energy process. To make a single barrel of oil requires two tons of tar sands and three barrels of water. It also releases more greenhouse gases: the EPA estimates that carbon emissions from tar sands is 82 percent more intensive than conventional oil. Other sources have found lower rates, but all agree that more carbon is released from the tar sands than other oil reservoirs.

Canada's exploitation of the tar sands has stalled its ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of reducing emissions by 6 percent relative to 1990 levels as promised, the nation's emissions have risen 17 percent. Still, extraction from tar sands, dubbed by the industry as 'oilsands', is vociferously supported by Canada's conservative government under Stephen Harper, and many believe the tar sands is the number one reason why Canada has turned its back on climate change mitigation.

Meanwhile Africa has suffered a number of debilitating droughts over recent decades. A long drought in East Africa led to famine this year, killing tens-of-thousands of people and putting 12 million at risk of food insecurity. Scientists predict that climate change will worsen agricultural production and water security on the continent.

"It's time to draw the line," the ad concludes. "We call on Canada to change course and be a leader in clean energy and to support international action to reduce global warming pollution."

Released by a new initiative dubbed Draw the Line -supported by Environmental Defense Canada, Equiterre, Greenpeace Canada, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nobel Women's Initiative, and the Sierra Club - the full-page ad is just the most recent expression of frustration at Canada's climate turnabout.

Canada sets "bad example"

Through its national news organization, China also took umbrage against the news that Canada was planning to pull out of Kyoto, calling the country a "bad example".

"While delegations from every country attend the Durban climate conference to discuss a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, one can imagine the damage done by this 'rumor'," Xinhua said. "Some are angry and some are depressed, but whatever the expression made by each delegation, they are united in their criticism of Canada."

Canada's position has not been helped by its head negotiator, Environment Minister Peter Kent, who has made several statements that have drawn ire, such as referring to funds for poor and vulnerable nations - who currently face the worst of climate change impacts but have contributed the least emissions - as "guilt payments". He says such countries should "stop 'wielding the historical guilty card' and asking for a free pass on emissions reductions just because in the past, industrialized countries had more emissions than the rest of the world."

So far, Kent has refused to confirm or deny the report that Canada is withdrawing from the Kyoto treaty, but has called signing up to Kyoto in the first place one of Canada's "biggest blunders."

At each UN Climate Summit, the Climate Action Network (CAN) delivers daily ironic awards, dubbed the "Fossil of the Day Awards," to those nations that most obstruct progress on combating climate change. In the first three days, Canada has taken home 4 out of 7 fossils.

Not alone

Canada, however, is not alone in being signaled out as a bad actor at negotiations, the U.S. is also facing wide criticism for obstructionism.

Two years ago the U.S. was regarded as the key player on climate change with the recent election of Barack Obama, who promised to do what his predecessor, George W. Bush, would not: embrace real action and international agreement on climate change.

"Now is the time to confront [climate change[ once and for all. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious," Obama said two weeks after winning the US election in 2008.

But today, according to an open letter from 16 NGOs to the Obama Administration, "America risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change but as a major obstacle to progress."

The letter urged the U.S. to drop its "stringent preconditions," and negotiate openly with other countries. The U.S. has refused to discuss extending the Kyoto Treaty and has pushed for pursuing a treaty that wouldn't go into effect until 2020. In addition the U.S. is raising some objections to the design of a Green Fund designed to provide significant monies to poor and vulnerable nations, though the fund has already been approved by nearly every other nation.

"This is a critical meeting, and we are rapidly running out of time to avert the worst impacts of climate change," the NGO's letter to the Obama administration concludes.

Still the harshest criticisms remain for Canada alone: for once it is outshining its neighbor to the south.

From bad to worse

Despite the U.S. position that waiting until 2020 for a treaty is reasonable, recent research argues if nations are to keep their pledge to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius, emissions must peak this decade and fall rapidly thereafter. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently announced that the world had five years to slash emissions or face dangerous climate change.

"As each year passes without clear signals to drive investment in clean energy, the 'lock-in' of high-carbon infrastructure is making it harder and more expensive to meet our energy security and climate goals," Fatih Birol, IEA Chief Economist, said last month.

Meanwhile, the UN has reported that concentration of greenhouse gases have hit a new high in the atmosphere, and emissions levels for last year beat worse-case-scenarios. Temperatures this year are likely be the 10th warmest on record and the warmest ever recorded for a La Nina year.

The effects of this heat are being felt far-and-wide. This year saw the Arctic's sea ice hit its lowest volume on record and have its second lowest extent. Ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic have halved in the last six years. Also with wider recognition of the impacts of climate change on severe weather, this year was also notable for an unusually large amount of extreme weather events. In addition to drought and famine in East Africa, 2011 saw massive floods in Asia and the Americas with a record-breaking deluge in Thailand, dubbed its worst natural disaster in history; a wide-variety of extreme weather events in the U.S., including an extended drought and heatwave in Texas; killer landslides in Central and South America; as well as a below-average year for tropical cyclones.

Although few observers expect a breakthrough at Durban, with so much at stake some are beginning to say that a miracle breakthrough of one kind or another is absolutely essential. Richard Black at the BBC characterizes nations as having three different views: those that want to continue the Kyoto treaty, those interested in jump-starting a new binding agreement, and those wanting a bit of both, but he writes that "the US and Canada want neither." Simply put, while most of the world wants to move forward on combating climate change - and are debating how best to do that - it may be that the Canada and U.S. are simply unwilling to act.

The question then becomes do the rest move ahead without them?


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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