The Kyoto Protocol applies to only 40 countries, and for major polluters like Brazil, India and China, it contains no reduction targets. The United States, another major contributor to climate change, declined to ratify the protocol, which amends the 1992 Framework Treaty on climate change. Those countries were largely behind the failure of the Durban conference to achieve any fixed aims.
The fact that there is an agreement at all is, Schauvliege said, “a positive point. The process didn’t completely fail.” However, she added that “the agreement contains little that’s concrete, and it contains no new commitments. It mainly consists of agreements to be made at future climate conferences. We will not be able to hold global warming to two degrees Celsius with this agreement”. The EU delegation had hoped Durban would put in place a “roadmap” of future measures to be taken, but that escaped them in the end.
Kristof Calvo, a member of parliament for Groen!, attended the conference. “The climate was not saved by this agreement, but the negotiations were. And these climate negotiations are still essential if any progress is to be made.”
The Durban conference put into action the Green Climate Fund, a financial mechanism agreed at the last climate conference in Cancún in Mexico in 2010. The Fund exists to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change and will from 2020 be funded by the richer countries at €100 billion a year.
This agreement came down to the efforts of the EU to make sure the conference did not close without a result; the proceedings were extended by a day and a half to allow an agreement to be reached. Minister Schauvliege praised the EU for its united approach but said that “even if we in the EU cross over to a low-carbon economy, that won’t be enough if other countries go on emitting greenhouse gases in the same quantities. Europe can’t combat climate change on its own.”
The Flemish minister has now taken part in Copenhagen in 2009, Cancun in 2010 and now Durban, “and I get the feeling we’re going around in circles,” she said. “Maybe we need to ask ourselves: Can it go on like this? Will we ever get anywhere at this rate?”