The recent UN climate conference in Durban saw delegates from over 200 countries make a conceptual advance towards real action on climate change.
The biggest breakthrough was that the world’s largest emitters – India, China and the U.S. – have agreed to come back to the negotiating table in 2015. The goal of the 2015 talks will be for an “agreed outcome with legal force.” This agreed outcome is earmarked to take effect in 2020 and would include both developing and developed countries.
Many are quick to point out that this preliminary agreement is non-binding. Indeed, the outcome at Durban is essentially a geopolitical rain-cheque. But the time frame for future discussions is not that long. In a space where countries outline emissions targets for 2200 and scientific reports feature predictions about the year 3000, a mere four-year hiatus is a pretty good result.
Between now and 2015, the outcome at Durban should drive domestic political support in democratic countries. Many of those in public life here and abroad firmly took the position that restricting emissions is economically irresponsible unless other economies came to the table. The result in Durban should help us do away with this mentality and become more internationally engaged.
This combined with the gas boom in Russia and continued growth of the renewables sector should only make an agreement in 2015 less pain full for all involved.
Of course a firmer result would have been better. But for now the outcome at Durbin it is as good an outcome as we have seen from talks of this magnitude.
One must accept that climate change will continue to test the power of global political institutions for many years to come. We must draw positives where possible and hope that 2015 brings further progress.