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What happened in Durban?

14 Dec 2011

Asssessment by Oisin Coghlan, Director, Friends of the Earth Ireland

The outcome in Durban was nowhere near enough to contain climate change. New legally emissions targets won't come into force until 2020, and in the meantime the voluntary pledges up to 2020 leave us on a track to between 3 and 4C of global warming, when scientists say anything over 2 is dangerous.

The Friends of the Earth International analysis, which you can read here, reflects that stark reality.

However, the actual alternative in Durban was not a deal we would have been happy with, but rather the end of the Kyoto protocol completely and the effective collapse of the international climate negotiations altogether. On balance, I believe a bad deal was better than no deal. The all-too-modest steps forward in Durban mean Ireland has no excuse not to plan and act to meet our EU2020 targets. And it gives civil society a focal point to continue to press world leaders to live up to their responsibility to prevent climate change running out of control. Some people feel that if this international process had collapsed it would have somehow put pressure on Governments to come up with something better. Given my experience of trade talks and my reading of the international balance of forces right now that is wishful thinking. Complete collapse would have simply let Governments off the hook completely. In the absence of an international process it is extremely difficult for civil society to generate the pressure and the scrutiny from the public and the media that we need to have any hope of action.

See what others think:

My go-to climate analyst is David Roberts of As always, worth reading.

The BBC's Richard Black's take on the winners and losers in Durban.

The Guardian's coverage was really remarkable:

Here's their account of the dramatic final hours of the talks.

And a round-up of reaction to the deal, starting with Andy Atkins of Friends of the Earth in London.

Frank McDonald of the Irish Times is a veteran of the UN process. His analysis is here.

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