The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) to the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change has opened in Durban, South Africa today. Delegates from nearly 200 countries are meeting to see what they can salvage from the wreckage of the Kyoto Protocol. That 1997 agreement aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from rich countries to an average of 5 percent below the levels they emitted in 1990. The United States never ratified that treaty. In addition, the treaty's limits never applied to rapidly industrializing countries like China, India, and Brazil whose greenhouse gas emissions have grown enormously in recent years.
Currently, it looks as though Japan, Russia, and Canada will simply not agree to join any treaty requiring further emissions limits. Even the Kyoto Protocol's strongest supporter, the European Union, now says that it will not commit to maintaining the treaty unless negotiators in Durban agree to some kind of "road map" toward mandatory emissions reductions by 2020. In any case, the EU's carbon market has collapsed once again.
I will be reporting from the Durban conference beginning next week.