WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER
Crunch time—With the high level officials in Durban and the endgame for the negotiations nearing, there is greater frustration from some about the lack of ambition to ratchet up efforts to keep global temperature increases to 2⁰C or less by the end of the century. The European Union, for one, would like to see more countries move in the direction of taking on greater emission reduction targets, even if they cannot implement things right away. Tove Ryding of Greenpeace said ministers are “acting as if they’re having to do something really hard,” but in fact, were just playing a poker game that could lead to 4⁰C warming this century
Climate skeptics—For most participants of the Durban Climate Change Conference, the idea that there is a need for action is not the subject of debate. There are not many climate skeptics or deniers who have made their voices heard in Durban but they are here. In fact, the group CFACT rolled out a huge orange banner across the podium at a press conference entitled “Climategate Science” and announced a new publication that promises to debunk all the “myths” that suggest that climate change is happening. A videotape from US Senator James Inhofe hailed the “many victories” that included the defeat of the cap and trade bill in the US, and called for driving the “final nail in the coffin” of climate change action.
Climate Finance —The impacts of the financial crisis have loomed large in the crisis and there is recognition that there may not be much public financing for climate change in the near term. Which only reinforces one of the findings, Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, that there needs to be a search for private financing. The key is to find a price for carbon, which he said has a triple positive effect—reducing emissions, promoting clean technology, and generating revenues for government use and for climate action. Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi said financing was the key to move any agreement forward. “We need the money to transfer the technology and to help those who are less able to adapt to climate change.”
Delivering as one—For the last several climate conferences, members of the UN system have gotten together to discuss ways the UN is helping countries to address climate change. This year’s event featured UN leaders being paired up with government ministers to discuss issues as varied as addressing poverty eradication while promoting the green economy, energy, weather services, and building national capacities to deal with the many facets of climate change.
Light note—UNEP has embarked on a program to phase-out inefficient incandescent light bulbs by 2016, and South Africa will be the first to achieve that target. The key, according to UNEP chief Achim Steiner, is that we can now achieve the same amount of lighting as we did 10 years ago using only one-tenth the amount of energy. Making this possible is a shift toward more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, and South Africa will be able to light four million homes with the electricity saved by discontinuing use of the older bulbs. The problem, however, is that the upfront costs for the new bulbs are higher than for incandescent bulbs, an obstacle for the poor. The key, Steiner said, was to provide point-of-sale incentives for people through financing.
Next stop Rio—Rio+5 may still be some seven months away but it was very much on the minds of some 350 people who came to hear Conference Secretary-General Sha Zukang and officials from Brazil and South Africa discuss ideas and plans for next June’s Conference.