Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Are world leaders giving up on reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 10:44 AM

In reading about the climate talks currently taking place in Durban, South Africa, I couldn't help but think of something Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace's international executive director, said when he visited Charlotte in early October: The governments of the world lack the political will to protect the planet and all of us from the dangers of climate change while making no attempt to hide being in bed with the industries that cause it.

On Oct. 4, Naidoo spent two days in Charlotte, visiting the dangerous coal-ash ponds that drain into the area's drinking-water reservoir and talking with local citizens during a speech at the International House. I recorded most of the speech for a Creative Loafing story. Today, I'm going to do something I thought I'd never do: share those private working notes with you. Keep in mind that this recording wasn't made to be shared. You can sometimes hear me scribbling notes or turning a page in my notebook; it's also not complete and it includes some background noise. But, if you weren't able to meet Naidoo when he was in town, you might be interested to hear him, in his own words, describe the challenges he faces on a global level when it comes to convincing the world's leaders to do something. Listen to his speech here:

Kumi Naidoo Charlotte Speech Sept 2011 by RhiannonFionn

According to Naidoo's assistant, he is currently in Durban where climate talks are happening. I can't help but wonder what he thinks of the reports coming out of the meetings suggesting that the Kyoto Protocol — signed in 1997 by most countries, though not the U.S. — may be on its last legs.

According to the United Nations, the Protocol "sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions." The goal was to reduce emissions by 5 percent between 2008 and 2012. The UN also states, "Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of GHG emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

It's those same countries — the ones most responsible for climate change — that want out of the agreement, mostly because the United States hasn't been willing to play along at all.

Here's a snippet from one of the reports, entitled, "Kyoto protocol may suffer fate of Julius Caesar at Durban climate talks" from The Guardian; the subtitle is "How many nations secretly conceal a dagger and intend to join the countries in Durban hoping to kill Kyoto off?":

Just one day into the Durban talks and, as we expected, we are witnessing the assassination of the Kyoto protocol. Canada has let the cat out of the bag with its environment minister, Peter Kent, saying: "Kyoto is the past" and suggesting that formally pulling out of the treaty is an option.

If Canada — once Kyoto's friend, now its undisguised enemy — were to withdraw it would probably be a death blow to the only international treaty that obliges by law rich countries to reduce emissions. The world can just about live with the US outside the treaty but to have Canada formally outside too, really signals the rich countries' diplomatic flight from the treaty that the world signed up to only 15 years ago. Japan and Russia are set against the treaty, leaving the EU as the only rich grouping of countries which is hedging its bets.

Read the entire article here.

Here's another snippet from MSNBC, entitled, "Kyoto Protocol in its death throes, 200 countries gather for climate talks":

"The South Africans are desperate to ensure that the COP does not fail, but they will not be able to deliver much," said Ian Fry, lead negotiator for the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, which could be erased by rising sea levels.

Fry blamed the United States, which has not ratified Kyoto, for blocking progress and said: "The EU seems to be going weak at the knees and will opt for a soft continuation of the Kyoto Protocol with a possible review process in 2015 to think about new legal options."


China is unwilling to make any commitments until Washington does while Russia, Japan and Canada say they will not sign up to a second commitment period unless the biggest emitters do too.

Emerging countries insist Kyoto must be extended and that rich nations, which have historically emitted most greenhouse gas pollution, should take on tougher targets to ensure they do their fair share in the fight against climate change.

Read the entire article here.

Here's Naidoo talking to me and others in our community about his work and the importance of working on climate change issues at the local level:

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