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Greenpeace protesters hold sign reading "listen to the people not pollutors"
Critics called the climate talks a big disappointmentImage: Jeppesen/DW

Praise and disappointment

December 11, 2011

While the German government's official response to the UN Climate Convention was positive, representatives of the opposition and environmental groups saw the results as yet another disappointment.


German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen on Sunday hailed a "great and groundbreaking success for global climate protection" after world leaders reached an agreement to come up with new binding limits to greenhouse gases by 2015.

"We have now reached agreement on the fundamentals and dynamics of an international climate protection treaty, which is a first for everyone," he said.

The agreement came about through an alliance between the EU, the least-developed countries and small island nations that are most acutely affected by climate change. The deal calls for states to extend their carbon emission reduction targets made under the Kyoto Protocol. The new pact set for 2015 would be implemented in 2020.

Norbert Röttgen
Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen called the climate talks 'groundbreaking'Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Röttgen said he assumed that the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases would also feel bound to the deal, reached after a week and a half of UN-hosted talks in Durban, South Africa.

Better than nothing

German climate researchers also expressed satisfaction at the fact that the climate talks in Durban produced anything at all.

"It's important for me that the negotiations continue and that the Kyoto Protocol remains in effect," Jochem Marotzke, director of the Hamburg-based Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, told the German Press Agency, dpa.

"The EU and Germany gave a strong performance in Durban," said Ottmar Edenhofer, professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research. While an agreement on the necessary cuts to greenhouse gases was not reached, he added, the conference did produce institutional prerequisites that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago.

No steps toward CO2 reductions

Despite praise from researchers and academics, representatives of the opposition in Germany heavily criticized the conference's outcome.

"The results from Durban are disappointing, disillusioning and revealing," said Claudia Roth, co-chair of the Greens.

Audience hears South African President Jacob Zuma speak
The climate talks lasted a week and a half - the longest everImage: dapd

The longest climate summit in history did not offer any stop to carbon dioxide emissions, Roth said, nor did it produce any concrete requirements. "There was no success on limiting global warming to below two degrees. That is undoubtedly a disaster for us all."

Eva Bulling-Schröter, a Left party politician and chairwoman of the Environment Committee in the German parliament, said she found the results shameful.

"The UN conference is being sold as a last-minute success, but it's really a defeat," she said, adding that the roadmap to implementation of a new deal in 2020 is not enough to stop global warming. "The peak of emissions has to be overcome by 2017 in order to reach the two-degree goal."

Bulling-Schröter said the second, extended phase of the Kyoto Protocol is a weak temporary solution, and that without the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and New Zealand the treaty would only cover a "laughable 15 percent" of worldwide emissions. It will be ordinary people, who carry the least amount of responsibility for climate change, who suffer the consequences of the summit's "grandiose failure," she added.

Environmental organizations unhappy

Eva Bulling-Schröter
Eva Bulling-Schröter said the climate summit was a 'grandiose failure'Image: picture-alliance/dpa

The environmental activist organization Greenpeace, which participated as an observer in Durban, called the results "a setback for climate protection."

"It would have been better if the representatives had produced no results and continued negotiations into the new year, until a truly good result was achieved," said Greenpeace climate expert Martin Kaiser.

Durban left open-ended how many large countries plan on reducing their carbon dioxide emissions in the coming years. The roadmap to creating a successor to Kyoto by 2015 also fails to convince Kaiser: "With this roadmap, big resistors like the United States, as well as large developing countries like China and India, will be able to avoid responsibility."

Author: Nina Werkhäuser (dpa) / acb
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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