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Climate Advocates Seek Small Steps at COP17

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COP17, the United Nations climate change conference, opened Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa. (Photograph courtesy of UNFCCC/Flickr)

Diplomats from 194 nations converged on Durban, South Africa, this week, kicking off two weeks of climate negotiations in the United Nations’ 17th annual Conference of the Parties, or COP17.

The discussions seek to advance the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted at COP3 in Kyoto, Japan, to fight global warming by requiring nations to lower greenhouse gas emissions – and which the United States didn’t sign. But the talks are not expected to be nearly as contentious as the talks two years ago in Copenhagen, Denmark, wrote Michael A. Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Instead, the talks are expected to “involve a mix of technical negotiations aimed at fleshing out and implementing past agreements, and political negotiations focused on elaborating the legal obligations of countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions,” Levi said.

“We think Kyoto will emerge alive from the conference, but it will be on life support,” Eileen Claussen, the president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told reporters on Tuesday, The Guardian reportedThe Guardian reported.

Jennifer Morgan of the World Resources Institute in Washington, D.C., an environmental think tank agreed. “Definitely in (the) discussion is a new look for the Kyoto Protocol, because time is running out,” she told USA Today. The agreement is set to expire next year.

Negotiators are still trying to reach the Kyoto agreement’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) by 2100. But the target still seems out of reach, reports

As the group was meeting, the U.N. weather office said Tuesday that world temperatures are still increasing and could bring irreversible changes for the Earth, the Associated Press reported. The office said this year is tied for the 10th hottest year since record keeping began in 1850.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change announced that COP18 would be held in Qatar – home to the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the world, according to The New York Times.

(Related: See Qatar’s futuristic stadium plans in Pictures: Kickoff Time for Green Stadiums)