Nations meet to discuss new global climate change agreement

This week politicians from nearly 200 nations gather in Qatar to discuss global solutions to climate change, with talks centering around lowering greenhouse gas emissions and the future of the Kyoto Protocol.

The New York Times reports that finding a new cap-and-trade agreement which will replace the soon to expire Kyoto Protocol — the only binding global agreement on greenhouse gas reductions — will be a major point of discussion during the conference, as it is set to expire this year.

According to the Associated Press, the talks will also focus on how much will be expected of developing nations.

Oxfam said that “developing countries are heading towards a climate ‘fiscal cliff’ without any certainty about how they will be supported to adapt to climate change after 2012 draws to a close” and a failure to reach an agreement in Doha would be “a setback from which we may never recover.”

This marks another attempt at reaching a global agreement to reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the failed attempt to do so in Copenhagen three years ago.

Last year, in Durban, South Africa to commit countries to reducing carbon emissions and decided on a 2015 deadline for a new emissions treaty.

“We all realize why we are here, why we keep coming back year and after year,” said South Africa Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. “We owe it to our people, the global citizenry. We owe it to our children to give them a safer future than what they are currently facing.”

The protocol was signed in 1997 and went into force in 2005, binding wealthy countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels. Last year, there were 191 countries that signed and ratified the treaty, and the only remaining signatory to have not ratified the agreement is the United States. However, Canada pulled out last year.

There is also little agreement on how long the Kyoto commitment period should last and how much carbon reduction needs to occur, reports the Associated Press.

It is politically difficult to get developing nations like China to sign onto emissions reduction agreements as cheap, abundant fossil fuel generated energy — which emits large amounts of greenhouse gas — fuels their economic growth.

“Proposing energy killing climate policies for the emerging economies is like telling the emaciated to start their diet now because they may become overweight in 90 years,” said David Kreutzer, research fellow in energy economics and climate change at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“Without severely capping emissions from the emerging economies there will be virtually zero impact on world temperatures by anybody’s measure,” Kreutzer added.

At Copenhagen, the European Union and nine countries promised $30 billion to support climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in developing countries. The New York Times reports that most of that money has not actually reached the recipient nations and has been lacking in transparency.

Last week, a study by the World Bank Group warned that the world could warm by as much as four degrees Celsius by 2100 — a trend that would cause extreme weather events, severe droughts, and major floods — without increased efforts to fight climate change.

“The World Bank seems focused on creating the ideal world for subsistence farmers and in the process preventing many of them from escaping that poverty,” Kreutzer said.