The Kyoto Protocol, which controls greenhouse gas emissions only in developed countries, expires at the end of 2012. Developing nations want to extend Kyoto, but Japan, Russia and Canada want a new, wider agreement.
Poorer countries say rich nations have emitted most greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution and must extend Kyoto before poor countries can be expected to sign up.
We cannot wait for every country to become equal, because that would mean waiting for an eternity.
Temperatures must be kept within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst effects of climate change. They have already risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius and even if all emissions were stopped today, they would rise by a further 0.5 of a degree.
Sticking to our 2 degree limit means global emissions must peak by 2020 at the latest.
While major progress in Durban looks unlikely, there is scope for optimism in two years’ time.
From 2013, there will be new political leadership in the world’s major economies. We hope to have put the global recession behind us. The stars may be more closely aligned in favour of a binding legal deal.