Landing on the Durban Platform: Raising Emissions Reduction Targets

As developing countries ramp up their efforts and solidify language involving reducing carbon emissions, Ned Helme, founder and president of CCAP, discusses this shift in the negotiations at Durban in his third post in a series of six Q&As.

Q: The Durban Platform calls for a global treaty that includes emission reduction obligations for developing countries. Do you think that this will motivate developed countries to raise their own targets knowing that developing countries are now a part of the solution?

A: I think it will – it should help reduce domestic opposition in the developed nations. Of course, domestically, the US is in a different category altogether and what is happening here no longer reflects what is happening internationally. Two years ago, U.S. congressional opponents of climate legislation based a part of their opposition on the argument that China and India were not doing their part, so our taking action on climate policy would hurt our international competitiveness.  That argument has been shut down because China and India have initiated aggressive programs to reduce emissions.  Now, however, opponents in the U.S. have shifted to attacking the basic science, and actions by developing countries to reduce GHG emissions are largely ignored.  For the rest of the world, countries like Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Europe, and Japan, knowing China and India are stepping up and are now willing to consider legally binding actions is a good sign — one that can be used effectively in domestic climate policy debates in these developed nations.

The informal plenary debate on the final night was also very telling.  Developing countries proudly cited their domestic policy actions and demanded action from developed countries on a scale similar to their own efforts. China and India were asking, “We are doing this so why aren’t you? We are cutting our emissions and making all these efforts while the US is doing nothing?” For the first time, the world sees this fact, and it was underlined by Norway and others who praised the actions of key developing countries and pledged to increase their own domestic efforts and their financing for efforts by the second tier of developing countries.

Ned Helme is the founder and president of the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP).

As a leading expert on climate and air policy, he advises Members of Congress, state and international governments, the European Commission and developing countries on these issues.

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