The 17th International Climate conference in Durban South Africa ended with decidedly mixed results. A “roadmap” was created to renew the Kyoto Protocol and to negotiate a comprehensive treaty to avert climate change — entering into force by 2020. And this time, the U.S. and all developing nations, including major emitters China and India, have agreed to be part of a binding agreement. So, although more nations will at least in theory be party to a new treaty, 2020 is far too late to effectively begin to address climate change and to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels – the threshold beyond which scientists tell us the planet’s climate patterns will be seriously destabilized.
Similarly, while the delegates agreed to set up a Green Climate Fund to help poor nations deal with climate change and reduce deforestation, they could not agree on how to fund it. For developing nations on the front lines of climate change impacts that are happening RIGHT NOW – an empty fund and a promise of action in 2020 is cold comfort. Let’s hope that negotiations leading up to COP 18 in Qatar in 2012 can help close the “ambition gap” between what is being contemplated and what is needed.