COP15 ended today with a political agreement to cap temperature rise to 2°C, reduce GHG emissions and raise financial assistance to developing countries (to $30 billion over the next three years) to adapt and mitigate against climate change. Many stake holders were disappointed that the meeting ended without reaching a legally binding agreement to reduce GHG emissions, as most experts had predicted. Many criticized this agreement as low in ambitions, poor on targets and vague on money. However, it represents a small but important step to move in the right direction, where countries recognize joint and differential responsibilities tailored to their economic and geopolitical capabilities and constraints.
Overall, I was left with a sense of frustration about the UN negotiating process, which is in urgent need of reform. Too much time was wasted in repetitive and digressive speeches, especially by countries who are neither particularly highly susceptible to climate change nor bring significant solutions to the table. Many breakout groups looked like procrastinating children that leave their homework until the last minute. At this level of negotiation, no time should be wasted to address global warming, so we should restrict the time devoted to global whining.
It is very difficult to make progress when there are so many people negotiating, often giving more importance to political considerations than to a scientific reality that demands our urgent attention. On the other hand, the current agreement reflects a compromise between the two major emitters – the USA and China, which is too few parties at the decision table. Considering that ten countries are responsible for 2/3 of the global CO2 emissions (i.e., China, USA, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, South Korea and Iran- ranked from higher to lower emitters), I think they should form a smaller group that includes a few representative of the G77 to continue the negotiations throughout the year, and commit early on to a transparent and accountable process that is essential to earn trust and build a common shared vision. If there is one thing that quickly makes us put aside differences is the threat of a common enemy, and we are facing an enemy created by our own actions- an enemy of devastating consequences on food security, global health, natural disasters and the economy. There is plenty of blame to share, but it is more important to find solutions that culprits and start preparing for next year, COP16 in Mexico.