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Cover Stories Series 2011
UPDATED: December 7, 2011
Economic Downturn No Excuse for Shirking Environmental Responsibility

The Durban climate change talks have entered a vital stage, with higher-ranking officials trying to work out a deal, or at least a draft, for continuing climate discussions and commitments.

A 130-page draft document released last week for discussion was just a reflection of how vast and deep the divergence is among the 192 members.

Expectations for what the Durban meeting can achieve have been dampened by the economic strains in the developed world, with the European Union leaders struggling to find a way out of the debt crisis and Washington busy preparing for a fierce presidential election next year.

It is worrisome that the worldwide economic downturn could curtail not only rich countries' commitment to provide billions of dollars to their poorer counterparts to mitigate the climate change effects but also their political will to take practical steps to push climate talks forward.

The European Union, which used to play a vanguard role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions, has already said it will not extend the Kyoto Protocol without a pledge by major emitters to sign a new treaty by 2015, which would go into force in 2020.

This is an obvious backslide from the key notion of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, especially the Kyoto Protocol, which divides the 192 countries into different groups to make the commitments possible and practical.

And rich countries are still refusing to pledge their commitments to the Green Climate Fund, which was agreed at last year's Cancun conference. The fund aims to channel up to $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

It is irrational, even dangerous, to use the debt crisis and tight budgets as an excuse for reducing or suspending funding for developing countries. That would undermine the global efforts on climate change and lead already faltering climate talks astray.

The Durban talks can't afford an acarpous result.

It is time for all the members, especially rich nations, to stick to the consensus reached in previous conferences and arduously explore compromise with flexibility and sincerity.

Even a small step forward is much better than starting all over again.

(Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2011)

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