In this week’s commentary on WAMC Northeast Public Radio, Pace Energy & Climate Center Director Franz Litz directs his attention to the climate talks in Durban, South Africa, which recently wrapped up.
According to Litz, “This past weekend, the international climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, ended with a positive whimper. The 192 countries participating in the negotiations have decided they will work toward a binding international agreement over the next 4 years. No new commitments to reduce global warming pollution are expected to kick in until 2020. In other words, international negotiators have just kicked the can down the road.”
Litz reminds listeners that the US signed, but never ratified, the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which would have required the country to reduce its global warming pollution to 7% below 1990 levels by the end of 2012. Instead, US greenhouse gas emissions are now at 8% above 1990 levels and projected to rise without additional effort.
Though many international observers are blaming the US for delaying progress on a binding international treaty, Litz argues that the US negotiators had no other option:
The Obama Administration cannot count on the U.S. Senate to ratify a new climate change treaty. 67 votes for ratification are simply not in the realm of the possible. In fact, one can argue that any climate treaty requiring ratification would meet an even more hostile reception in Washington today than the Kyoto Protocol did in 1997. What good would another repudiation by the U.S. Senate do for the international climate cause?
On a brighter note, he adds, “U.S. efforts to reduce emissions are underway–just not in Congress. Through EPA and DOE action, and through the action of states and local governments, emissions will be reduced.”