photo by UNclimatechange (Flickr CC)

COP 17 updates, anyone? Anyone care about the future of the climate, planet Earth or its human and non-human inhabitants?

No? Well neither do your leaders, apparently. Wo what are they doing there, anyway?

One aspect of the climate summit in Durban, South Africa seems to be various large polluting countries balking at committing to reduce emissions unless every other country does. This effectively means that none of them really want to. Not enough to take a stand.

Make no mistake: the rule of the day is economic self-interest.

Brazil, China, India are not considered industrialized nations and want exemption from limiting their emissions based on the fact that their historical greenhouse gas production is dwarfed by that of already industrialized Europe, the US and Japan. Furthermore, they insist that industrialized nations cap their emissions. This would allow these growing economic giants to industrialize to the level of established rich countries and still (theoretically) limit global emissions.

So… things don’t look that hopeful for any kind of legally binding treaty, which includes anything significant enough to avoid the UN target of limiting global warming to a 2C average rise in temperature.

From Bloomberg:

Japan last year nearly derailed the talks by saying it wouldn’t sign up for new commitments under Kyoto. Canada and Russia since have joined in that camp. China and India have become two of the top three polluters in the world since the pact was adopted in 1997.

The EU isn’t happy with the developing countries either. Incentives for poor economies are being put on the back burner in favor of strong arm tactics which would have developing nations, as well as Europe, signing up to a legally binding emissions treaty, even if the US, Canada, Russia and Japan don’t.

A campaigner for the anti-poverty activist organization the World Development Movement is quoted in the Independent:

The US, UK and EU are using the same strong-arm tactics to bribe developing countries that we saw at Copenhagen. Abandoning their previous commitments to provide finance to help developing countries deal with climate change, they are now saying finance will only be available to countries that agree to a new deal that effectively abandons the Kyoto treaty.

–Murray Worthy, World Development Movement

Read Murray’s blog on Durban here.

The UN’s REDD project, designed to transfer money from rich nations to poor ones in order to preserve valuable forests isn’t looking so rosy either. A new report suggests that REDD may in fact not be effective or in the interest of the local indigenous communities meant to be at its heart.

Read more on that story in the Guardian.