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Close to despair

Climate change talks yield no progress, missing every deadline

Activists standing with a banner before a march to demand action to address climate change in Doha. Photo: Reuters

Activists standing with a banner before a march to demand action to address climate change in Doha. Photo: Reuters

At the end of another lavishly-funded UN conference that yielded no progress on curbing greenhouse emissions, many of those most concerned about climate change are close to despair.

Unless rich and poor countries can inject urgency into their negotiations, they are heading for a diplomatic fiasco in 2015 – their next deadline for a new global deal

As thousands of delegates checked out of their air-conditioned hotel rooms in Doha to board their jets for home, some asked whether the UN system even made matters worse by providing cover for leaders to take no meaningful action.

Supporters say the UN process is still the only framework for global action. The UN also plays an essential role as the “central bank” for carbon trading schemes, such as the one set up by the EU.

But unless rich and poor countries can inject urgency into their negotiations, they are heading for a diplomatic fiasco in 2015 – their next deadline for a new global deal.

“Much much more is needed if we are to save this process from being simply a process for the sake of process, a process that simply provides for talk and no action, a process that locks in the death of our nations, our people, and our children,” said Kieren Keke, Foreign Minister of Nauru, who fears his Pacific island state could become uninhabitable.

The conference held in Qatar – the country that produces the largest per-capita volume of greenhouse gases in the world – agreed to extend the emissions-

limiting Kyoto Protocol, which would have run out within weeks.

But Canada, Russia and Japan– where the protocol was signed 15 years ago – all abandoned the agreement. The US never ratified it in the first place, and it excludes developing countries where emissions are growing most quickly.

Delegates flew home from Doha without securing a single new pledge to cut pollution from a major emitter.

So far, UN climate talks have missed just about every deadline. Now they have a 2015 deadline to get a new global, binding deal in place, to enter into force after the extension of Kyoto expires in 2020.

For the first time, it would apply to rich and poor countries alike.

But with the world’s nations divided over who must pay the cost, the task of reaching accord seems beyond the capabilities of the vast corps of international delegates.

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