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28 Nov 2011: Durban Climate Talks Begin
With Dim Hopes for a Global Deal

Climate talks began in Durban, South Africa on Monday amid downplayed expectations for any meaningful agreements on cutting greenhouse gas emissions or progress on finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. With the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory carbon targets now covering less than a third of the world’s carbon emissions, some observers say that a global, top-down approach may increasingly be replaced by local, incremental climate policies, from Australia’s new carbon tax to Colombian initiatives to replace polluting truck fleets and promote renewable energy. “The situation has never been weaker for [a global] vision,” said James L. Connaughton, who chaired the Council on Environmental Quality under President George W. Bush. In 1997, nearly 200 industrialized nations agreed to the Kyoto Protocol, pledging a 5.2 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared with 1990 levels by 2012. But the U.S. never ratified the protocol, and the targets did not apply to emerging countries like China and India. The European Union is the only Kyoto signatory willing to sign on for a second five-year commitment period, but will only do so if other nations — including the U.S., China, and India — begin negotiations on a global deal that can be implemented by 2020. Negotiators hope to make some progress in Durban on establishing financing mechanisms to help developing nations deal with the impacts of global warming.

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