So something has finally been agreed. Governments have agreed to make an agreement by 2015 which will come into force by 2020. Ministers are jubilant. Pressure groups say it is not enough. Plus ça change!
Here's my thoughts:
- Global agreements will always suffer from a degree of lowest common denominator - keeping Washington, Beijing, Brussels and New Delhi happy is an almost impossible task;
- Agreements, agreements under negotiation, or lack of agreements should not be seen as an excuse for lack of domestic action (are you listening George O?);
- That doesn't just go for Governments - there's nothing to stop organisations and individuals acting either;
- The main purpose of international agreements should be to put a brake on 'carbon leakage' (ie migration of 'dirty' industries) from one country with high standards to one with lower standards - this is the only risk of a country going it alone;
- Governments are best placed to decarbonise through the markets - particularly using their own colossal buying power. If you want industry's attention, make low carbon a prerequisite of doing business - you then stimulate innovation and cut emissions;
- Business is better placed to cut carbon than Government. If captains of industry decide they will, say, go zero carbon, you will see a lot of change happen very quickly - they don't have to worry what the Daily Moan will say about it. Supply chains are global, so one big buyer in the West can affect emissions around the world.
So I am neither excited nor depressed by the news from Durban. Those of us working to cut emissions will just keep on doing so!