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Disappointment in Durban

5 December 2011

5:21 PM

5 December 2011

5:21 PM

Will Durban break the cycle of climate change meetings that repeatedly disappoint those
hoping to replace Kyoto with an upgraded model? With so much else on, most people seem to be ignoring the latest summit entirely. Scanning the major newspaper websites, only the Guardian and the
Independent mention “Durban” on their homepages. 
First Copenhagen failed to live up to the massive hype. Then Cancun continued the stalemate on the big picture and negotiators contented themselves with addressing some relatively minor points. But
Kyoto’s commitment period ends at the end of 2012, so those hoping for new mandatory targets can’t content themselves with stalling forever.
Despite the scale of the economic crisis, the politicians really want a deal and some governments, particularly our own, will commit significant resources to secure one.  They are regularly
announcing new programmes worth tens of millions of pounds to try and win poorer countries over. But looking at the Guardian and Independent’s stories the problem is that the
“villains” are too many and too important. The Guardian headlines with India holding up a
proposed “road map” for the talks and the Independent reports

‘The key villain remains the United States, which a year before presidential elections will not sign up to a new green target. China will not play ball either. Japan, Russia and Canada
have pulled out of the current negotiations.’

Look at the data and you see the problem that creates. Add together just the carbon dioxide emitted by the
United States, China, India, Japan, Russia and Canada and you have 58 per cent of world emissions in 2009, according to the International Energy Agency. Just 12 per cent of global total emissions
were produced in the EU27 by contrast, and that includes some countries which are themselves quite sceptical of expensive climate policies. Emissions in Britain are a mere 1.6 per cent of the global

In that context, we should be moving toward the kind of plan I set out in Let them eat carbon. Put
scientists and engineers to work making it cheaper to produce low emissions energy, rather than deploying massive amounts of prohibitively expensive renewable energy from sources like offshore wind.
But a more likely result is probably that our leaders proclaim whatever comes out of Durban a success. And keep pressing ahead imposing higher costs on families with enough pressures on their
finances already.

Matthew Sinclair is director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

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