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Global climate change treaty in sight after Durban breakthrough
(video and text)
Fiona Harvey and John Vidal, Guardian
Climate conference ends in agreement after two weeks of talks
The world is on track for a comprehensive global treaty on climate change for the first time after agreement was reached at talks in Durban, South Africa in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Negotiators agreed to start work on a new climate deal that would have legal force and, crucially, require both developed and developing countries to cut their carbon emissions. The terms now need to be agreed by 2015 and come into effect from 2020.

“I salute the countries who made this agreement. They have all laid aside some cherished objectives of their own to meet a common purpose – a long-term solution to climate change,” said Christiana Figueres, the United Nations climate chief.

Chris Huhne, the UK’s energy and climate secretary, said the deal would ensure the European Union’s efforts to tackle global warming were matched by others. “We know that we are working very hard on this, but we need to be sure that other countries are working just as hard – that’s very important for our industry and our competitiveness,” he said.

But Huhne also acknowledged that the hard work was only beginning, because following the agreement struck in Durban, governments face four gruelling years of horse-trading over how far and how fast each country should cut its carbon, in order to flesh out the bones of the deal.

Q&A: Why Durban climate deal is different
The full text of the ‘Durban platform’
(11 December 2011)

What happened in Durban?

Fiona Harvey and John Vidal, Guardian
Q&A: Why Durban is different to climate change agreements of the past

World governments have committed themselves to reaching a legally binding deal. What are the chances of the process succeeding?

For the first time, world governments committed themselves to write a comprehensive global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, covering developed and developing countries, to come into force in 2020.

Haven’t we had climate change agreements before?

Yes, going back to 1992, but never like this. The 1997 Kyoto protocol is the world’s only existing treaty stipulating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, but the cuts only apply to developed countries and the US has never joined in. The current Kyoto targets expire next year, and only the EU among major developed countries has agreed to a continuation of them afterwards – Japan, Russia and Canada have all dropped out. Accords were also struck in 2009 and 2010 at Copenhagen and Cancun respectively, by which most countries and all of the biggest economies set out national targets on emissions curbs up to 2020. But these are voluntary, not legally binding.

Why is a legally binding treaty important?

An international treaty is far harder for future politicians to wriggle out of than commitments at a national level.
(11 December 2011)

Durban: good science always wins

Ugo Bardi, Cassandra’s legacy
It will take some time before we can digest and understand the actual significance of the agreements of Durban. As usual, some people will see the glass half full, others half empty. But there is an element that gives us hope: the effort to stop climate change continues.

The effort continues despite the opposition of the fossil fuel lobbies, despite the propaganda action of “Climategate 2.0“, despite the continuous attacks against science in the media, despite the fact that in the US the whole spectrum of Republican candidates has taken an anti-science position on climate. There was a whole alliance of powerful forces that were trying as hard as they could to sabotage the Durban Conference. They didn’t succeed, and not for lack of trying: Christopher Monckton, the arch-enemy of climate science, was so desperate to get attention that he resorted to parachuting himself to Durban. He was ignored, anyway.

Given the coalition that had gathered against science, we can see as an almost incredible success that the conference ended up with a structured agreement that keeps the negotiations ongoing. Evidently, the gravity of the situation is becoming more and more clear: people are getting the message. As I said, climate science is good science and
(11 December 2011)

Obama Winning Climate Debate as China Opens to Legal Accord

Kim Chipman and Alex Morales, Bloomberg News via San Francisco Chronicle
The U.S., long accused of blocking progress in international climate talks, is winning a two-decade old debate about how to curtail global warming.

The decision yesterday by China and India to move toward an agreement with the “legal force” to limit their fossil fuel emissions marked the first step toward treating developing nations the same as industrial ones when it comes to reducing pollution.

President Barack Obama, and George W. Bush before him, pushed for that parity after the Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which limits greenhouse gases for industrial nations. Developing nations such as China and India had no commitments under Kyoto.
(12 December 2011)
My skeptrometer has a high reading for this spin on the climate conference. Any thoughts from readers? -BA

The young and the restless: Kids sue government over climate change

Claire Thompson, Grist
As the U.S. delegation drags its feet at the climate talks in Durban, South Africa, this week, a pack of kids back home is trying to force the old folks into action, the American way: They’re suing the bastards.

In May, a group of young people, led by 17-year-old Alec Loorz (founder of Kids vs. Global Warming), filed 10 lawsuits, one against the federal government and the others against individual states, to compel the government to take action on climate change.

“The generations before us … just kind of thought of the world as limitless,” said Glori Dei Filippone, 13, a plaintiff in the case who hails from Des Moines, Iowa. “My generation and the one after it are going to have to work hard to fix this mess.”

By the time Filippone is old enough to run for office, it could already be too late to reverse the destruction wrought by climate change — all the more reason to put pressure on the government today.

The lawsuits are based on a legal theory developed by University of Oregon law professor Mary Wood called “atmospheric trust litigation.” The theory “rests on the premise that all governments hold natural resources in trust for their citizens and bear the fiduciary obligation to protect such resources for future generations,” according to Wood’s web page.

Julia Olson, of Our Children’s Trust, a nonprofit group supporting the lawsuit, likened this obligation to the duty parents have to protect money in a kid’s college trust fund. If the trustees of that fund went and squandered the money, the child could sue them. So these kids are expanding that idea and suing the government for squandering their future.
(8 December 2011)
Suggested by EB contributor Gildone. -BA