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Climate talks ending soon in Durban -

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Climate talks ending soon in Durban

Peter Lloyd reported this story on Saturday, December 10, 2011 08:22:00

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The United Nations climate talks in Durban are going into extra time and there's
a gloomy assessment emerging of the shape of a final deal. It seems like the big emitters China,
Indian and the United States have all combined to prevent any prospect of a deal that carries the
phrase, 'legally binding'. A final communiqué is expected sometime today.

Dr Bill Hare is a physicist and environmental scientist with more than 20 years experience in the
science, impacts and policy responses to climate change. He's a former Greenpeace consultant who
now works for the Potsdam Institute.

AM's Peter Lloyd spoke to Dr Hare on a less than perfect line from the conference centre a few
moments ago.

BILL HARE: The negotiations here are really very tense indeed. We've just seen two-and-a-half hour
ministerial segments where the most vulnerable countries and the European Union and others
essentially did not accept or refused to accept the proposal for an agreement that had been put
forward by the South African presidency. And this put the large emitting countries, the BASIC
countries as they're called, the United States, China and India into quite a defensive position I
would say.

These countries have been trying to push forward an agreement here which would not start a new
agreement in effect until after 2020, with very weak commitment to understanding about the legal
character of that; they do not want the words 'legally binding' to be in the agreements in Durban.

So the most vulnerable countries, the European Union, a group of Latin American countries have been
really quite angry I would say about that and as a consequence I think the presidency's had to go
back and start redrafting their proposal.

So at this stage the meeting is not reconvening until midnight Durban time and it's expected to go
through until the early hours.

PETER LLOYD: What's at stake here?

BILL HARE: Well what's at stake really is the future of international efforts to combat climate
change. If we don't get an agreement to do a legally binding agreement within the next few years to
apply before 2020, then I think we're looking at a very major step backwards in international
efforts to combat climate change.

So I would say at stake is our ability to actually limit global warming below two degrees; from a
science point of view that's a very large gap between what countries are pledging to do for the
year 2020 in terms of emission action and what we actually need to get to limit warming below two
degrees and it's really the big emitters that are opposing really substantial action to close that
gap.

And so if we can't achieve that here then we are faced with rapidly increasing costs to get to this
two degree goal and rapidly increasing in environmental human and economic consequences from the
damages of climate change.

PETER LLOYD: What is the argument being put forward by the emitters?

BILL HARE: Well they vary. The United States argues that a legally binding agreement isn't
necessary to achieve big reductions. They argue that they've already made their pledge in Cancun
and they don't want it touched until 2020.

India argues that they are a poor developing country and they shouldn't be asked to take on legally
binding obligations, which to some extent is quite fair enough but everyone knows that actually
they won't be asked to do very much with a binding character at all.

China is indicating a willingness to take on legally binding obligations after 2020 and not before
yet their emissions are rising so rapidly that many are of the view that it's essential that they
come within the global campaign to reduce emissions rather rapidly.

Brazil is occupying an ambiguous position but so far has supported these other big emitters.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's climate change expert scientist Dr Bill Hare, speaking just a few moments
ago to AM's Peter Lloyd.