Climate Conference: Questions & Answers On Durban Negotations

11/28/2011 02:26 pm ET | Updated Jan 28, 2012

JOHANNESBURG — Some questions and answers about the climate talks being held in South Africa's eastern city of Durban that opened Monday and close on Dec. 9.


Q: Who is meeting in Durban?

A: Negotiators from the European Union and 191 countries making climate change policy under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Thousands of activists and experts are there to observe, advise and protest. The meeting is not a summit, but some heads of state will come, and government ministers from about 100 countries will attend the final days next week.


Q: What are the main points of contention?

A: Whether industrial countries will extend their commitments to further reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming after their current commitments under what is known as the Kyoto Protocol expire next year. Most wealthy countries have said agreement is conditional on developing countries like China, India and Brazil accepting that they, too, must accept legally binding emissions restrictions.

_ Whether progress will be made on a Green Climate Fund to help poor countries cope with climate change. A committee of 40 countries worked for the past year on drawing up a plan to administer the fund, but agreement on the final paper was blocked by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and the final contentious issues will have to be worked out in Durban.


Q: What is the Kyoto Protocol?

A: Under this measure adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, industrialized nations are required to reduce their carbon emissions. The United States has never signed Kyoto, but is participating in the Durban talks.


Q: What is climate change?

A: The overwhelming majority of climate scientists say the earth's surface temperatures have been rising rapidly because man is burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Studies show the rising heat already has led to animals migrating, crop yields decreasing, glaciers shrinking and shore lines shifting. Developing nations, where overwhelmingly poor populations are vulnerable and infrastructure is fragile, are particularly hard hit, leading to calls on industrialized nations that got a head start on pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to do, and pay, more to deal with the results.