Seventeenth Annual Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa

The annual United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP17) Climate Change Conference began November 29th In Durban, South Africa.  The 11-day conference is a gathering of representatives from across the globe, whose goal is to develop an ongoing, unified policy approach to climate change.  Friday December 9th will mark an end to the conference, hopefully with a cohesive plan to attack the problems of both climate change and the impasse of global governments.

The overarching goal of this year’s meeting is to expand on a critical existing agreement, the Bali Action Plan, in an effort to develop a more cohesive and coordinated approach to climate change.  The Bali Action Plan was created to address some tough fiscal issues related to providing aid to developing nations who suffer the most from the negative effects of climate change.

COP17 could prove to be decisive year for the global community, as the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate change treaty, is set to expire in the coming years.  The reason this year is so important is due in part to the desperate need for a coordinated agreement on the strategy for mitigating climate change – one the United States has yet to agree to.  In addition to the U.S., Australia has yet to ratify the treaty, arguing that the Kyoto Protocol forces developed nations to shoulder much of the economic burden, while developing nations like China and India reap the benefits.  To make matters worse, the global economic uncertainty and market volatility might prove to further hinder the process of hashing out an agreement that is both fair and effective.

The current administration has chosen to pursue a different path towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Several rules promulgated earlier this year by the U.S. EPA targets heavy polluting power plants and fuel efficiency standards.  Both actions appear to be part of the campaign promises by President Obama to curb greenhouse gas emissions.  It has been difficult however to get all greenhouse gas related rules passed.  A rule that would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, specifically CO2, had to be postponed due to heavy opposition from climate change skeptics and industry lobbyists.

December 9th not only marks the final day of the conference, but possibly the fate of the global community.  If nothing resembling an agreement is reached, the difficulty of overcoming the political impasse may be too great.  Check the COP17 website for updates on the final days and decisions that have been reached.

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