The environmental movement is attempting to extend the carbon reduction goals of the United Nations Kyoto protocol in Durban until a new treaty can be patched together.
The effort hinges on the European Union's ability to persuade China to agree to binding obligations on emissions reduction. The EU has always viewed itself as the vanguard of the movement.
Countries such as the United States and Australia refused to sign on to Kyoto in the first place because they claimed that exempting newly industrializing countries such as China and India made the exercise a waste of time. The fact that China and India have become industrial superpowers in the interim with large foreign exchange reserves has further decreased support for a double standard between the developed world and the newly industrialized countries.
The global recession that has hit the industrialized countries hard also means that these countries are in risk avoidance mode when it comes to imposing emission control expenses on their industries for fear that in the short term it could make them less competitive.
A third factor is that the environmentalist movement has been hit by revelations that climate data was deliberately doctored to filter out evidence that could contradict the global warming theory and its catastrophic predictions.
Canada is being singled out for criticism because while it previously signed on to Kyoto under the Liberal government, the current Conservative government is making noises about leaving the framework.
Some commentators have noted that the attack on Canada constitutes a substitute for an attack on Barack Obama and the United States because the United States is too big to attack.
Canada is sitting on a $13 trillion treasure chest in the form of its oil sands and their full development means that Canada will not be able to stay within the emission limits.
Canada's position has elicited specific criticism from China that is interested in perpetuating the differentiated approach adopted by Kyoto.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua in an editorial rejected the idea that all countries had to be equally committed, claiming that the developed countries were responsible for most of the greenhouse gases and during their industrialization from 1900 to 2005 their carbon emissions were much higher than those of the developing nations.
While China and India were industrializing, their per capita GDP remained well below the world average. China and India would do their share "but they have also have the very right to development, which is recognized and insured by the principal of common and differentiated responsibilities."
Canadians who support the Conservative government sharply reject the Chinese lectures. The pro-government National Post published a picture of smog ridden Beijing noting: "so long as, the world’s biggest emitters want nothing to do with it [Kyoto], we’d be crazy if we did… No one is fooled when China, coughing and choking as it approaches the microphone, warns that other countries have to get serious or the situation could deteriorate."