In 2011 the UN climate summit which took place in Durban, South Africa ended with tentative agreements on a timeline for replacing the Kyoto Protocol. However, none of the fine details were ironed out and many nations could not come to agreement on major aspects of reducing emissions. The discussions were then put aside to continue in 2012, beginning with a two week conference in Bonn, Germany which recently ended.
As for the Kyoto Protocol, the established agreement made in 1997 will expire in 2012. Due to there being no agreement to replace it, nations will be implementing the Kyoto Protocol for another five years. Many of the nations represented at the summit were not included in the Kyoto Protocol, including the United States and China, and therefore have no legally binding emission goals.
During the South African summit, the European Union, a main member of the Kyoto Protocol, called for both developed and developing nations to commit equally to reducing worldwide emissions. However, many nations believe that only well-established developed nations, those largely in the lead of emissions since the Industrial Revolution, should be required while developing nations continue to emit without limitations. Such is the stance of many nations, including India and China.
Despite attempting to work towards a replacement agreement for the Kyoto Protocol during the Bonn summit, representatives spent a significant amount of time debating the aforementioned distinction between nations which are developed or developing, rich or poor. Unfortunately the discussion did not get much further than disagreement and is yet again continued to this fall for the summit in Qatar.
One of the greatest issues with determining emission responsibility based on earlier contributions is due to the growing economies of nations such as China. In the 1950s, China contributed two percent to carbon emissions while the U.S. contributed approximately forty percent. However, China is now the leading carbon dioxide emitter and increased their emissions by another 9.3 percent in 2011. Overall, China now contributes approximately twenty-five percent while the U.S. hovers near twenty percent in global contribution and has seen their contribution fall steadily since 2006.
Despite these figures, the country of China wishes to remain grouped with developing nations. China, however, is the second greatest economy in the world. Many other nations are now rich but still grouped with developing nations with the old Kyoto alignment. This is a major source of discord amongst representatives in the UN.
The continued slow progress in UN climate talks concerns scientists and climate activists which see the passing months as the world coming continually closer to a potential tipping point for carbon emissions and environmental damage due to climate change.