As the world’s leaders and scientists meet in Durban this weekend to discuss the end of the Kyoto Protocol and climate change, several nations seem intent on disrupting negotiations. Key among them is the USA who, along with China, Japan, Canada and Russia, has refused point-blank to agree to any new targets on CO2 reductions at the summit. The USA under George Bush rejected the current Kyoto Protocol, which ends in 2012 and aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 5% compared to 1990 levels, back in 2001 citing the unfairness that the Protocol did not include developing countries such as India and China. Now, with the presidential elections looming, the Obama administration is refusing to agree to a new set of limitations. The stance has led to angry criticisms from many attending the Durban summit including small island nations who are likely to be the worst affected by changing weather patterns and rising sea levels. The UK’s Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott, who played a key role in the original Kyoto negotiations, spoke out against the approach. Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Let’s have a reassessment of it by 2015. But if you don’t finish in time for the ending of Kyoto Two, which is next year, 2012, then, you know, it will actually wither on the vine and that’s what Canada and America wants – and one or two other rich countries. It’s a conspiracy against the poor. It’s appalling. I’m ashamed of such countries not recognising their responsibilities.”
Although the USA and co have been labelled as the villains at the UN sponsored conference, there is evidence that a shift in the UK government’s strategy towards climate change is afoot. George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, hinted at this change when he said: ”We are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers.” His words run against the government’s previous assertions that it intends to be the ‘greenest government ever’. In response, the President of the coalition’s partners, the Liberal Democrat party, Tim Farron, claimed Mr Osborne was taking on climate-sceptic attitude ”to placate 50 or 60 climate deniers on the [Tory] back benches, people who read the Daily Mail and people called Jeremy Clarkson”. It all seems that with the global economy in a downturn, environmental issues are being sidelined.