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Q&A- The Durban Climate meet

Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years.

Delegations from more than 190 countries are meeting in Durban, South Africa at a UN sponsored climate change conference from November 28-December 9, 2011 to chalk out a new global treaty on climate change. The following questions and answers provide a glimpse into what the Summit is all about and the agenda on the table.

What is climate change?

Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. This change of weather patterns is currently happening mainly due to global warming, which is caused by the rising emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that trap heat. Temperature on Earth is rising due to global warming, and it is rising at a speed for which a majority of scientists are blaming human actions.

What is Durban Climate Summit?

Beginning November 28, 2011 various representatives including government leaders, diplomats, officials, international organizations and civil society are gathering in Durban, South Africa to participate in a United Nations meeting to chalk out a new international treaty to tackle climate change. The delegates will seek to move forward the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol with the Bali Action Plan agreed at COP 13 in 2007 and the Cancun Agreements reached at COP 16 in 2010 to fight global warming.

Why is the Summit taking place?

A majority on this Earth, including several of the world`s governments are of the view that climate change poses a grave threat to the humanity and to the natural world. The majority of the scientific community, notably the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), too believes the humans are severely damaging the nature and environment, and if nothing is done to stem it the damage will be become irreversible. Rising temperatures and sea levels are already indicating towards this. Unprecedented loss of forests adds to the greenhouse-gas problem.

Why the world needs an agreement?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) came into being during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Under this framework, the Kyoto Protocol was agreed upon in 1997. However, so far none of the agreements have managed to bring about a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to help fight climate change and its effects projected by the IPCC. The targets set under the Kyoto Protocol apply only to a few countries and the treaty runs out in 2012. So, after the failure of talks in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun Agreement in 2010, diplomats and non-governmental organizations will seek to reach a new international climate agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Durban Summit as the Kyoto Protocol expires next year.

Who are the key players?

Various representatives will try to win agreement on strong emission curbs from big polluting countries. Canada, Japan and Russia have said they don`t want to extend Kyoto Protocol unless it`s extended to bring in US and China. They are of the view not to renew their pledges after the first round of commitment period expires at 2012 as the world`s leading polluters stay outside these restrictions.

China wants developed countries under the protocol to clarify the amount for emission cuts at the Durban Summit and expects others not covered by the accord to pledge the same target. Poorer nations want the Kyoto Protocol to be extended.

In US, the environmental issue is a serious political front line between Republicans and President Barack Obama`s Democrat party. The EU, responsible for 11% of global carbon emissions said it is willing to sign up for a second commitment phase with a condition that major emitters are intended to join it.