On Monday the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre published the
results of a major new scientific assessment of climate change. The
assessment stated that, if emissions are left unchecked,
temperatures would rise generally between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius
this century above pre-industrial levels.
Most parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change now meeting in Durban generally support containing
the rise in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius. And a paper
published last weekend shows that industrial emissions of CO2
increased from 2009 to 2010 by 5.9%, far in excess of the average
growth rates in the 1980s, 1990s and from 2000 to 2009.
These papers highlight the climate change challenge facing both
developed and developing states in this final week of the Durban
conference. But the chances of this challenge being successfully
met in Durban are slim or none.
And it's unrealistic to expect that it would be.
Reports yesterday that the US and the BASIC group (China, India
and others) are blocking a push backed by Australia, the EU and
others for a second Kyoto commitment period post-2012 or any new
legally-binding climate agreement should come as no surprise. To
the extent any consensus exists amongst certain of those countries
without Kyoto commitments – the BASIC group, for example
– it's that any new emission reduction commitments
are unlikely before 2020.
As the IISD has reported, China has set out numerous conditions
for participating in a legally-binding, post-2020 agreement, with
some support from Brazil, without of course establishing whether
China itself would be bound by the agreement.
The US calls for all states, developed and developing, to
shoulder emissions reduction commitments. Todd Stern, the US
climate change special envoy, states that the need for all major
emitters to shoulder climate commitments is clear –
"just do the math", he says, even if the timelines for
implementation might be different for different countries (unlike
Stern states that "[d]eveloping countries account for
around 52% of emissions, now, and are projected to account for
approximately 66% by 2030. They will produce some 97% in the growth
of emissions between now and 2030."
As the latest IEA statistics on global CO2 emissions reveal, in
2009 China and the US (both without Kyoto targets) counted together
for 41% of the world's emissions. Two-thirds of global
emissions came from just 10 countries – with, of course,
China and the US surpassing those of all the others.
Reducing emissions at the rate required – 3% per year
for the remainder of the century, according to the CSIRO's
Michael Raupach – so as to limit temperature rise to 2
degrees Celsius – requires action on the part of both
developed and developing states.
And perhaps it is a mistake to equate action on the part of
developed and developing states with an agreement to be
internationally bound by emission reduction targets (like Kyoto).
China, for example, in the past 20 years, has reduced its carbon
intensity faster than any other major economy.
China has also approved seven pilot carbon market schemes which,
it intends, will be expanded into a nationwide emissions trading
scheme from 2015.
Perhaps it is also a mistake to focus on action at the national
level without considering action at the sub-national level. In the
US – the only signatory not to have ratified Kyoto
– California (the world's eighth largest economy)
will have an emissions trading scheme from 2013, and coalitions of
states are identifying, evaluating and implementing ways to reduce
The Durban conference is now well into its second and final
week. A 131-page amalgam of proposals (which deal with a raft of
matters in addition to emission reduction targets) is to be
considered by developed and developing states, against a background
of worsening global economic conditions.
Developed states won't sign up at Durban to future
legally-binding emissions reduction commitments. Developing states
Just do the math.
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
This review has abstracts of recent developments relating to pollution and contaminated land in Australian jurisdictions.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).