Sunday, 12 December 2010

Climate conference result - could do better?

Rooftops on FireImage by newbeltane via Flickr
If I were a teacher giving a school report on the performance of our leaders in Mexico I think it would go something like.... "good effort but could do better". Yes, there was agreement reached on tackling climate change but is it too little, too late?

In Mexico yesterday, Ministers and officials from nearly 200 countries reached an agreement that all nations (not just the richest and biggest producers of CO2 emissions) set goals to cut their emissions of the greenhouse gases that are causing the atmosphere to warm. This is good news, don't get me wrong. However, the devil is in the detail, as they say. So, what exactly did everyone sign up to?

One thing they did agree to is a new international regime of monitoring of every country's emission-cutting efforts, something China – now the world's biggest CO2 emitter - previously resisted. However, it's not yet clear how monitoring will be carried out, by whom and what sanctions can be imposed on those failing to toe the line.

A second part of the agreement was to establish a Green Fund from next year possibly reaching $200 billion by 2020. The aim of the fund is to help smaller countries tackle climate change. Again, detail is somewhat lacking about who will contribute and how much exactly they will give and by when. The idea is a laudable one but past performance (think tackling poverty) is not encouraging as rich countries have been slow to meet previous commitments.

Finally, the third major plank of the agreement is to tackle deforestation, a major cause of global warming. The forest agreement, which is known as REDD+ – the acronym stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. It aim to make the great rain forests of countries such as Brazil, Congo and Indonesia pay, with the host nations receiving funding for not cutting them down and so releasing CO2. How exactly this will all work is yet to be confirmed.

So, overall, a positive step has been taken to restore the impetus to the fight against climate change, something that was crucial after the debacle of Copenhagen. Let's hope that everyone, but especially the rich countries, will continue to make the effort and indeed, when the final results are out, that they did indeed 'do better'. 
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