Environmental Outlook: Durban Climate Talks

Environmental Outlook: Durban Climate Talks

Earlier today, the head of the United Nations Evironmental Program said, "We are not moving fast enough. We are losing time.” He was addressing the 194 nation U.N. climate summit in durban, south africa. The talks are their second...

Earlier today, the head of the United Nations Evironmental Program said, "We are not moving fast enough. We are losing time.” He was addressing the 194 nation U.N. climate summit in durban, south africa. The talks are their second week. As key provisions of the 1997 Kyoto protocol are expiring, one issue is working out a timeline for a new treaty. But volunteer measures would also be needed to keep the earth from warming by 3.6 degrees by the end of the century. For this month's environmental outlook: the struggle to reach consensus on global carbon emissions.

Guests

Joseph Romm

senior fellow, the Center for American Progess; he runs the blog ClimateProgress.org; former acting assistant secretary of Energy under President Clinton.

Juliet Eilperin

environmental reporter, The Washington Post, and author of " Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks."

William O'Keefe

Chief Executive Officer of the Marshall Institute, President of Solutions Consulting, Inc.

Günter Hörmandinger

First Counselor on the Environment for the Delegation of the European Union to the U.S.

Program Highlights

As the talks at the Durban Climate Summit are in their second week, many countries are questioning what can really be accomplished at these talks. This skepticism comes at a time when new research shows carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels have increased by as much as 50 percent in the last two decades. Guest host Steve Roberts and panelists talk about the sticking points at the talks and what may be realistic goals.

The Main Goals Of The Meeting

There are two major issues those at Durban are grappling with, Juliet Eilperin said. One is grounded in technical details that have been left over from the previous two conferences, like figuring out how to structure a fund to help developing nations cope with mandatory cuts to emissions, and to figure out some rules for avoiding deforestation. The other is a broader issue about how the world is going to move forward towards the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change.

A Slowing Down of World Commitment?

Even as the science supporting climate change is getting stronger, there is a perception that the U.S. is "hamstrung," Joseph Romm said. The U.S. failed to pass a climate bill in 2010, which President Obama could have brought to Copenhagen as a starting point. But, Romm said, if the richest country that produces the most cumulative emissions in the world can't reach an agreement, that sends a strong message. "I think a lot of nations are trying to jockey for position to not get blamed for the failure and frankly to pin it on the U.S. and intransigents in the U.S.

The Chinese Strategy

China is building new coal plants at an alarming rate. But at the same time, China is investing a large amount of money in clean energy. Also, China does not want to be blamed on the world stage for the failure to reach an agreement, so, Romm said, they use a lot of vague language that comes with "unknown strings." China also has a big clean water problem it needs to address, Gunter Hormandinger said.

Prospects For Green Jobs

There is a strong market across Europe for new jobs related to green energy, but it's not quite the same in the U.S. in the EU, there is regulatory certainty that drives the job creation, but this is not the case in the U.S., Juliet Eilperin said. There are also a few key subsidies ending in 2012, including a production tax credit for wind. "If that goes away, that's huge problems for the wind industry here in the U.S.," Eilperin said.

You can read the full transcript here.

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