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Breaking, Al Jazeera: Agreement was reached to extend the Kyoto climate protocols that apply to developed nations for 5 years and to implement new protocols that will be the same for all countries by 2020 at the latest. The three major greenhouse gas emitters, China, the United States and India will be included in the standards for the first time. Reaching agreement with the major emitters to follow one standard is a big step forward and a victory for the U.S. negotiator. A green fund to assist developing nations was agreed upon. The agreement is better than expected but falls short of what's needed to stop global warming according to environmentalists.

The president of a United Nations climate conference in South Africa has announced agreement on a programme mapping out a new course by all nations to fight climate change over the coming decades.

The 194-party conference agreed on Sunday to start negotiations on a new accord that would put all countries under the same legal regime to enforce their commitments to control greenhouse gases. It would take effect by 2020 at the
latest.

Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for another five years under the accord adopted on Sunday.

From Steven Lacey in Durban, Think Progress blog:

After a grueling two days of negotiations with almost no rest, the international community gathered at COP 17 in Durban, South Africa was able to agree on an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, a framework for negotiating internationally-binding emissions targets, and more details on an international fund for financing adaptation and mitigation projects.

Before the meeting even began, people were ready to write off the negotiations as a failure. With almost all major priorities outlined by negotiators coming into the meeting adopted, the international community has taken far bigger steps than anyone expected.

As Figueres pointed out, they are still not enough to get us on a sharply declining emissions path. And a number of environmental groups are criticizing the package, saying it won’t get the job done. But it’s a decent start — and certainly far better than predicted coming into this meeting.

After going 36 hours overtime, at 2AM the South African president and the Brazilian delegation broke the impasse. From the Guardian:

A deal was reached after the South African president of the talks urged the EU and India to go "into a huddle" in the middle of the conference hall in the early hours of this morning, in a bid to work out language both sides were happy with.

A compromise, suggested by the Brazilian delegation, saw the EU and Indians agree to a road map which commits countries to negotiating a protocol, another legal instrument or an "agreed outcome with legal force".

The treaty will be negotiated by 2015 and coming into force from 2020.
The deal also paves the way for action to address the "emissions gap" between the voluntary emissions cuts countries have already pledged and the reductions experts say are needed to effectively tackle climate change.

The bottom line from the bottom lines of the New York Times' dour article on the agreement.

Mary D. Nichols, chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board, which arguably has done more to reduce carbon pollution in the United States than any other body, was in Durban as an observer. Ms. Nichols said that given the inability of the international bureaucracy or the United States Congress to move decisively on global warming, the job would increasingly fall to the states and local governments.

“Instead of waiting for them to negotiate some grand bargain, we have to keep working on the ground,” she said. “Progress is going to come from the bottom up, not the top down. That’s just reality.”

I think, as Tim in CA does that the Times gave up on the agreement before it was made. However, I also believe that it will only succeed in America by strong pressure from us, the 99% pushing the leaders and the 1% to act.

Update: An informed international perspective from koNko provides an alternate interpretation worthy of consideration.

Afraid I have to object to your framing

You say:

    Reaching agreement with the major emitters to follow one standard is a big step forward and a victory for the U.S. negotiator

It is not, and the spin you put on this is disrespectful to those who did the heavy lifting in Durban, whom you do not even mention in passing.

The US made virtually no concessions and contributed nothing of real significance to the negotiating process.

The US negotiator, Todd Stern, has been consistently a negative and divisive force in the negotiations for years and is disdained by Environmentalists everywhere for his single-minded pursuit of US economic interests at the expense of international unity. He played the usual games in Durban.

This was a collective process, but if any single person deserves credit for forging this agreement surely it is Connie Hedegaard, the EU climate change commissioner, who lead the EU to drafting the proposal that served as the vehicle, lead the negotiation process from her impassioned speeches to her dogged pursuit of direct negotiations between parties and, most importantly, got commitments from the EU, Norway and Switzerland to continue meeting their Kyoto commitments beyond 2012, a commitment at the core of the agreement and the lynch-pin upon which it was finally made.

How that translates into a victory for Mr. "Kyoto is Dead" Stern is simply beyond me.  Clearly, this deal was reached despite his involvement, not because of it and we should not confuse that.

A legally binding and equitable treaty is the common goal of most nations and this agreement is a step forward toward that, but actually getting there will be a long and rough road since the problems and interests and varied and often conflicting. Going forward, I would hope the US appoints a replacement for the odious Mr. Stern who carries too much excess baggage to remain, but if the US goal is to continue to evade responsibilities and cut the most favorable deal for itself then maybe he should remain.

Lastly, I think you are misreading this in terms of how standards will apply. The fact is, there has not been nor is there likely to be one common standard of emissions applied and if that were to be the case, it would mean per capita limits. While I personally agree with and advocate such a principle, it's difficult for me to imagine the US, let alone Mr. Stern, ever agreeing to such a regime since the history has been broken promises and self-interest in minimizing responsibility for historical or current emissions. Given that current US per capita emissions are a multiple of either China or the EU and many times that of India, it's incredible to imagine the US agreeing to what would be a necessary per capita limit to reach the 2C 2050 goal.

What we can and should expect is a regime that continues to differentiate responsibilities between various categories of nations and ultimately depends on negotiated national commitments. The formula and commitments are yet to be negotiated.

No doubt the negotiation process will be difficult and in the case of the US, fraught with political land mines given the fact the US Congress must ratify any treaty and does not presently seem disposed to do so.

That the agreement was finally reached is really a big step forward and a beginning, not an end.

I think we should all be happy with this result and give credit to the UN and the delegates as a whole for sticking to it and accomplishing what could be at this point.

And we should continue to keep the pressure on.

Sorry for the dissenting remarks, it's not my intention to rain on this parade, only to get the facts straight and give credit where it is due.

Connie Hedegaard rocks.

What koNko's perspective doesn't take into account is the problem of making a climate deal that can pass the United States Congress. Even if Democrats take back the House and hold the Senate in 2012, getting a treaty passed in the U.S. will be a challenge. Rural oil, gas and coal producing states have an undue amount of power in the U.S. senate. It's an unintended consequence of how the senate was defined by the U.S. Constitution. The power of the fossil fuel lobby in the United States has long been an impediment to progress in developing renewable energy and limiting climate change.

Originally posted to The Durban Daily on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 08:07 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and DK GreenRoots.

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