Failing to agree to a second set of climate targets sends a powerful message around the world.
Four out of ten respondents to our survey think that conflicting agendas will prevent an agreement at Durban and three out of ten believe economic costs is another key barrier. In this section, we look at some of the positions that have emerged among the countries represented at the meeting.
Different political stances overshadow a global deal
Countries such as Russia, Canada and Japan say they will not sign up to a new deal unless all major emitters, including China and the US, are bound by targets. Many industrialized countries want developing nations to take on some form of internationally binding commitments to limit their emissions.
But developing countries argue that the industrialized nations have been largely responsible for historical emissions and so should bear the economic burden of tackling the damage they have caused.
Growing frustration in the Eurozone, Kyoto not a focal point of the US political agenda
The European Union, which has for many years been a leader in climate policy, has stated that there is no point in it continuing with the Kyoto Protocol if the other major players do not also agree to take on significant legal commitments.
Its earlier commitment to increase its emissions reduction target to 30% if others made significant commitments will stay on the negotiation table but a decision to move to this target will not be made before Durban.
Although President Obama entered office in 2009 with climate change high on his agenda, it now seems unlikely that the US will focus on supporting a global climate agreement. The US has said that any agreement that is conditional on access to funding is unacceptable.
With the financial crisis and current economic difficulties high on the agenda, and with the 2012 presidential election looming, economic challenges closer to home are likely to take priority.
Will the carbon markets survive?
Although the prospects of a global carbon deal will recede in the absence of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, carbon trading will continue as long as there is demand and a market for it. The European Union is committed to maintaining its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which makes up more than 80% of the global carbon market, to 2020 and beyond.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is in a similar situation. Unless a specific decision is taken to abandon it, it will continue as an institution. But without a second commitment period for Kyoto, it is extremely uncertain how possible it will be to have CDM projects registered with UNFCCC beyond 2012.
A new wave of initiatives among developing countries
However, countries in the developing world are starting to realize that they will be most affected by climate change and that they cannot rely on the developed world alone to deal with the issue.
The financial problems of many industrialized countries are making many emerging markets realize that help from the West may be limited. As a result, they are developing their own approaches to tackle the issue.
If a global agreement cannot be reached at Durban, this does not automatically mean the end of the Kyoto Protocol. Although developed countries will no longer be subject to binding targets if no agreement is reached, the Protocol will remain in force until a specific decision is made to abandon it.
But failing to agree to a second set of climate targets at Durban sends a powerful message around the world that policy-makers are far from agreeing a united approach to tackling climate change.
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