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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Quest for Environmental Sustainability- Climate Change Deal

Hurray at last, we have a deal on climate change that commits all major economies to greenhouse gas cuts. This feat is no doubt has but to rest the speculations that Cancún will not deliver as was the case at Copenhagen. The deal, brokered at Cancún, if not for any other thing, has restored hope in the multilateral UN process, though it does not satisfy all stakeholders, for instance it will not deliver the temperature reductions predicted by most professionals as would be needed, as well as the fact that it pushes many of the most important decisions to future negotiations.
The deal, which took four years of negotiations to reach, would lead to
  • Less deforestation;
  • Transfer of technology to developing countries; and
  • Establishment of a yearly fund, potentially worth up to $100bn, to help countries adapt to climate change.
Mixed reactions arising from the Climate Change Deal
Chris Huhne, who led the UK's negotiating team, said that it's a good deal which gives a new sense of momentum to [climate change] discussions. There was nothing inevitable about this package. "This is a significant turning point. It clearly says that there should be reductions from developing countries. I would like to have seen a 2020 date for global emissions to peak but this takes us forward to a legally-binding overall outcome," he added.
In a series of late night exchanges, the only opposition came from Bolivia who complained that the deal was being pushed through without consensus. It eventually gave in after intense pressure from the chair of the talks and other countries.
"This has violated the multilateral rules because they didn't respect the consensus – they are breaking the rules," said Pablo Solon, Bolivia's ambassador to the UN, "This agreement won't stop temperature from rising by 40C and we know that 40C is unsustainable," he added.
Japan, the one rich country that tried to delay progress in the talks by refusing to sign up to a second commitment period to the Kyoto protocol, gave in after complex legal manoeuvres and pressure from other G20 countries.
Connie Hedegaard, the EU commissioner for climate action, had earlier in the week spoken of a "very frank exchange of views" with the Japanese delegation. Welcoming the deal, she said, "We have helped to deliver the successful outcome the world expected and needed. But the two weeks in Cancún have shown once again how slow and difficult the process is. Everyone needs to be aware that we still have a long and challenging journey ahead of us to reach the goal of a legally binding global climate framework."

Is the Climate Change Deal Adequate or Not?
As one would expect, the deal was greeted with strong reservations by environment groups. This is evident in the reactions from many professionals.
Jeremy Hobbs, a director at Oxfam said  "With lives on the line, we must now build on this progress. Long term funding must be secured to help vulnerable countries protect themselves,"
"Cancun may have saved the process but it did not yet save the climate," said Greenpeace International Climate Policy Director Wendel Trio. "Some called the [UN] process dead but governments have shown that they can cooperate and can move forward to achieve a global deal."
Friends of the Earth International said the agreement was "a slap in the face of those who already suffer from climate change", and could still lead to a temperature rises of 50C. "In the end, all of us will be affected by the lack of ambition and political will of a small group of countries. The US, with Russia and Japan, are to blame for the lack of desperately needed greater ambition," said Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth international director.

Other measures agreed in outline included the establishment of a climate fund to handle and deliver the billions needed for the developing world to adapt to climate change and a system to inspect the actions taken to avoid climate change by rich and larger developing countries.
However, no date was included in the agreement by when countries must "peak" their emissions. This is considered essential to avoid more serious problems later.

A departure from Copenhagen's accusation- a shift worth mentioning
The Mexican presidency was roundly praised for its handling of the negotiations. Becky Chacko, director of Climate Change policy for Conservation International said: "The Mexicans have tried very hard to maintain an atmosphere of transparency and inconclusiveness. In Copenhagen, there was a hope that things could get pressed through so you had a situation where there was text being written behind closed doors and not everyone was included in all of the processes… Here, they made sure that everyone was included and that led to a level of buy-in and consensus that we didn't have last year."
Now, what is your own take on the climate change deal?
         Excerpts from various media sources

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