UN climate conference begins in Durban, South Africa

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File: In this photo taken Tuesday, July 19, 2011, elephant walk through the Kruger National Park feeding of trees. Climate change could mean an unthi

Representatives from 194 countries and thousands NGOs are gathering in Durban, South Africa, to participate in a new round of climate negotiations, including how to extend the Kyoto Protocol.

The Durban Conference, the COP 17, will hold from November 28 to December 9, aiming to make efforts to reduce greenhouse gases emissions under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

But very few expected the 12-day talks, still fragile after the near collapse of the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, to conclude with a deal that would match the gravity of the climate crisis. The recent financial crisis makes positive results even more unlikely.

Efforts to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which committed industrialized nations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a set amount by 2012, have been on hold since the failure of the climate conference in Copenhagen.

The meeting in Durban is the best chance the world has to agree a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol because no international forum provided an alternative.

The conference will also consider ways to raise $100 billion a year for the Green Climate Fund, which aims to help countries cope with global warming.

Recent climate reports showed that the window of opportunity for capping the rise in global temperatures at two degrees Celsius, the threshold for dangerous global warming, is fast closing, according to the International Energy Agency.

The latest report published by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also showed that the ratios of greenhouse gases reached new highs.

The US exit from the Kyoto Protocol inevitably undermined the accord. Some developed countries wavered and even backed away from their positions.

The Umbrella Group, which includes Japan, Canada, Australia, the US, and other developed countries, has repeatedly rejected the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

At the 2010 Cancun summit, Japan declared that it would not agree to any extension of the Kyoto Protocol, drawing criticism from the international community, especially from the developing countries.

The UNFCCC clearly states that developed countries should help the developing ones in terms of capital and technology. However, in the years that followed, the promises remained mere lip service.

It was not until the 2009 Copenhagen conference that rich nations grudgingly agreed to provide a Green Climate Fund to combat climate change.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month stressed that the Durban talks should implement the consensus reached at the Cancun conference.

“It is an imperative which we have to do in all the circumstances...We cannot ask the poorest and the most vulnerable to bear the cost,” Ban said.