Cool COP Morning: A Tale of Two Countries — China and Canada

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Act, COP17, The Wonk Room

The delicate negotiating dance among the Durban delegates has begun, as 194 nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are clarifying each others’ positions in a final effort to cover new ground at this year’s climate talks.

Representing two poles of the varied positions of countries at the Durban conference are Canada, which has said it will not extend its Kyoto Protocol commitment ending in 2012 (and may even withdraw early from this existing climate agreement), and China,  which has indicated this week that it wants all industrialized nations (including the U.S., which it views as having historic responsibility for emissions) to commit to and honor binding emissions reductions, before it would do so after 2020. (The U.S., of course, has so far maintained that it will not agree to a binding agreement unless it treats developing and developed countries the same.)

The Nature Conservancy is urging all parties to remain open to compromise and to consider the benefits of action for their national interests. Duncan Marsh, the Conservancy’s Director of International Climate Policy, wrote in the National Journal Monday that there are important elements in both the Cancun and Kyoto climate agreements that should be carried forward and built upon in a new stronger, broader system of global cooperation.

Though former UN climate official Yvo de Boer told the Associated Press this week that the negotiators live “in a separate universe,” (and the annual climate talks in their 17th year are “a bit of a mouse wheel,”) we can only hope the delegates in Durban are hearing the pleas of protesters outside the conference, and heeding the conclusions of science reports imploring leaders to act sooner rather than later to avoid more catastrophic climate disruptions.

Much like the U.S., climate change is a hot issue between political parties in Canada, with the current Conservative administration critical of the liberal decision to join Kyoto back in 1998. Many citizens groups from Canada have traveled to South Africa for the conference in order to make their voices heard on the climate issue, from students who baked brownies to make their political points to NGOs that marched in the streets of Durban.

And if the COP delegates can’t get it done this week, perhaps the young people can (science indicates they will be left to cope with the consequences of continued warming). Since 2009, youth attending the UN climate meetings from the U.S. and China have been meeting to “foster dialogue, cooperation and cultural exchange,” between the two countries. A workshop was scheduled at the COP today to create a U.S.-China Youth Coalition for Sustainable Development.

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and writer for The Nature Conservancy

Photo by: Frank Lowenstein (Karen Rooney, Tasha Peters, and Amara Possian of the Canadian Youth Delegation hold a bake sale for the planet at the Durban climate conference).

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