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Genuine progress on tackling climate change, or just hot air?

Ministers from around the world met in Durban in the first two weeks of December 2011 to hammer out a deal on tackling climate change. The aim was that this would replace the Kyoto Treaty, due to expire at the end of 2012.

International climate change agreements are particularly difficult to achieve, as there are several market failures involved. Also, there is considerable ‘gaming’, as each country seeks to negotiate a deal that benefits the world as a whole but which minimises the disadvantages to their own particular country.

The conference ended on the 11 December with a last-minute deal. Both developed and developing countries would for the first time work on a legally binding agreement to limit emissions. This would be drawn up by 2015 and to come into force after 2020. The following articles assess the significance of the agreement and whether it represents real progress or little more than a deal to work on a deal.

Articles
‘Modest’ gains as UN climate deal struck Independent (11/12/11)
Landmark deal saves climate talks Irish Examiner (11/12/11)
Durban climate change: the agreement explained The Telegraph, Louise Gray (11/12/11)
Durban climate conference agrees deal to do a deal – now comes the hard part Guardian, Fiona Harvey and Damian Carrington (13/12/11)
Climate deal: A guarantee our children will be worse off than us Guardian, Damian Carrington (11/12/11)
Durban climate deal: the verdict Guardian, Damian Carrington (12/12/11)
Australia hails Cop 17 agreement News 24 Australia (11/12/11)
Climate talks reach new global accord Financial Times, Andrew England and Pilita Clark (11/12/11)
Durban Climate Talks Produce Imperfect Deals Voice of America, Gabe Joselow (11/12/11)
Critics slam climate agreement t Sydney Morning Herald, Arthur Max (11/12/11)
Deal at last at UN climate change talks Euronews on YouTube (11/12/11)
World still in arrears on climate change pledges Reuters Africa, Barbara Lewis (11/12/11)
New UN climate deal struck, critics say gains modest Hindustan Times (11/12/11)
Climate change: ambition gap Guardian (12/12/11)
Canada leaves Kyoto to avoid heavy penalties Financial Times, Bernard Simon (13/12/11)
Durban Platform Leaves World Sleepwalking Towards Four Degrees Warming Middle East North Africa Financial Network, Ben Grossman-Cohen and Georgette Thomas (Oxfam) (13/12/11)
A deal in Durban The Economist (11/12/11)
Assessing the Climate Talks — Did Durban Succeed? Harvard University – Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs – An Economic View of the Environment, Robert Stavins (12/12/11)

Questions

  1. What was agreed at the Durban Climate Change Conference?
  2. Why is it difficult to get agreement on measures to tackle climate change? How is game theory relevant to explaining the difficulties in reaching an agreement?
  3. How would you set about establishing the ‘optimal’ amount of emissions reductions?
  4. Why will the market fail to provide the optimal amount of emissions reductions?
  5. Why was it felt not possible for a legally binding international agreement to come into force before 2020?
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