Agreements reached at the 2011 UN Climate Summit


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Climate Summit: Progress

During the summit itself, it was clear that obtaining an extension to the Kyoto Protocol would be a challenge. Just as the meeting started, Canada issued a statement saying that it would not extend its Kyoto agreements for a second period, choosing instead to follow its own path to greenhouse gas emission reductions. This could be political-speak for allowing the pursuit of the anti-environmental policies surrounding the development of Canada’s tar sands.

It is important, though, to recognise Canada’s reaffirmation of its intention to contribute significantly to the climate aid fund. Canada has pledged $400M per year, but if contributions are made according to gross domestic product, it should be contributing 6 times as much, if the $100B per year figure is to be realized.

Temperature difference from the 1961-1990 mean. 2011 was the warmest La Nina year (when temperatures in the equatorial Eastern central Pacific are lower than normal). Credit WMO.

Shortly before and during the summit, there were also several relevant science anouncements to focus the minds of the delegates, including a study in Nature indicating the inexorable rise in greenhouse gas emissions (Peters et al., 2011), another study in Nature warning of cumulative CO2 emissions (Friedlingstein et al., 2011), and the anouncement by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) of the latest information on global temperature, indicating that 2011 so far is the 10th warmest year on record.

Climate Change Realities

The agreements to continue talks have no direct impact on emissions, so countries are free to continue generating greenhouse gases at the same rates, or even greater rates, for at least another 3 years, and more likely 8 or 9 years. As recent studies have demonstrated, even the global recession of 2008 has had only a temporary reduction on global CO2 emissions (Peters et al., 2011), which are higher than ever. The 2C limit is almost sure to be broken now, sometime around about 2043, or even as early as 2028, now that governments haven’t committed to firm reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in time.

The largest concern of environmentalists would be whether we are heading for a 3-4C rise in global temperature. We are already observing damaging effects in the Arctic with just a 1C global temperature rise. That is why scientists have suggested the 2C figure, and small island states preferred the more conservative 1.5C.


Black, R. Climate talks end with late deal. BBC News on line. December 11, 2011. Accessed December 11, 2011.

Friedlingstein, P., et al.  Long-term climate implications of twenty-first century options for carbon dioxide emission mitigation. Nature Climate Change. (2011). 1, 457–461. Accessed December 11, 2011.

Peters, G.P., et al. Rapid growth in CO2 emissions after the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Nature Climate Change. (2011). doi:10.1038/nclimate1332. Accessed December  11, 2011.

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