The headline at Bloomberg News today is, "US Climate Stance ‘Blowing Negotiations Apart'" - we're sad to report that our country is obstructing progress at the COP 17 Climate Change Summit in Durban, South Africa.
Now in its second week (it ends December 9), the US is squashing any hope of an agreement by insisting a global deal isn't possible before 2020.
Unbelievably, the U.S. wants to focus on the voluntary emissions cuts agreed to last year and refuses to consider a global binding treaty until China and India commit to legally binding targets.
"We can't wait for the U.S.," says Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini.
"The U.S. position leads us to three or four degrees Celsius of warming, which will be devastating," says Celine Charveriat of Oxfam International.
"There is a huge failure of ambition. Nothing here will keep us out of catastrophic climate change," says Jim Leape, Director General of the World Wide Fund for Nature International. The U.S. has already suffered record- breaking losses due to severe weather this year with only 0.8 degrees Celsius of warming. If the U.S. won't moderate this stance they should step aside."
Meanwhile, the EU says it won't move ahead with deeper Kyoto Protocol commitments until all nations negotiate a new climate pact. The EU, which operates the most extensive carbon trading platform in the world, says prices have tumbled this year at least partially because participants lack confidence that the Protocol will be extended.
Canada, Russia and Japan won't continue under Kyoto after the initial round of cuts expire next year (they didn't meet them anyway), and the US never ratified it because it wouldn't move forward without binding commitments from China.
Australia, which recently passed the world's first carbon tax, and New Zealand, which has a small carbon trading market, also say they won't implement deeper cuts under a new Kyoto Protocol unless all the big polluters sign on.
"We need to be able to go back to our own people, whether we live in France or New Zealand, and say we aren't the only people doing something," says Tim Groser, New Zealand's chief envoy. "You will not carry public opinion if the debate is ‘you are the only idiots doing anything,'" he told Bloomberg.
New Zealand is calling for a "Kyoto plus" treaty where all the big polluters - includng the U.S., China and India - would make firm commitments that they will follow through on the voluntary pledges they made last year.
Developing nations - including big polluters like China and India - want Kyoto extended but to continue as is - applying only to industrialized nations who caused the problems in the first place.
They want to see the industrialized world follow through on the promises they made in Bali (2008) and Copenhagen (2009).
China actually made an "unprecedented" proposal to agree to binding commitments but the US and EU are pretending this is nothing new, says Samantha Smith of WWF International. What??
The U.S. and EU say an extended Kyoto treaty, which would run from 2013-2020, would only cover 15% of world emissions because China and India are now two of the world's top three polluters.
Research from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and United Nations Environment Programme, among others, show that if the world postpones serious action until 2020, it will cost much more to switch to renewables and drastically increase energy efficiency. Global emissions would have to fall 3.8% a year from 2020-2050 from 2000 levels.
If strong emission cuts happen in the next three years, however, global emissions would have to decline by only 2% a year.
Scientists warn that a global temperature rise of 2 C (3.6 F) doesn't guarantee a safe haven against climate change - it would merely prevent the very worst consequences, which the world is heading toward now. If 3.5 C (6.3 F) is reached, it would be an extremely dangerous scenario, they say.
Dry Vs Wet Nations!
The effects of climate change comes into stark focus when you see nations beginning to form alliances based on their "dryness."
Qatar, which will be next year's host for the Climate Summit, wants the world's driest nations to join its Global Dry Land Alliance.
40 ‘dry nations' want to protect themselves against food and water shortages. High food prices have already led to riots in 30 countries that depend on imported food.
The dry nation alliance would include Morocco, Egypt, Australia, sub-Saharan nations, Mexico and others in the Persian Gulf and central Asia.
Here's What's Hard to Understand
Clearly, the US would have an impossible time committing to a legally binding treaty now given the GOP's hostility against taking any action on climate change.
On Tuesday, December 6 at 11:00 AM, conservative GOP group CFACT announced skydivers would parachute past COP17 trailing banners demanding attention to the Climategate 2.0 emails. They're very upset they haven't been able to upend the talks as they did in Copenhagen two years ago with the very same emails.
But why are countries still playing a game of "Who Goes First?"
There's now an abundance of evidence - countless studies and experience on the ground from companies, cities and states - that addressing climate change is GOOD for the economy, job creation.
We know that it is already creating the industries of the future which will drive economic growth and that countries like the US who are not taking leadership roles could well be left in the dust competitively.
We don't see leading corporations or cities around the world that are taking action, taking a 'you go first' approach. They're already saving huge amounts of money through energy efficiency and renewables, while cementing their leadership positions.
Why don't countries see the value of being Leaders instead of Followers on these grounds alone?