In Parliament >> Durban - just another event?

17th January 2012

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Alan Whitehead MP gives his opinion on the Durban climate talks

The crashing of successive waves of “events” on the shore of the UK’s body politic in the past year makes divining what is significant and what is not very difficult. Before you have got to grips with what the latest event or crisis means, the next one is upon you. Because of this, events get buried.

It almost feels as though the relatively recent outcome of the Durban climate change conference falls into this category. We had a meeting that everyone thought would produce nothing as far as progress on climate change action was concerned, and, oh hold on, some sort of agreement did emerge.

True, it didn’t produce any results that in themselves save us from global warming, or even put us on the path to do so; but the agreement that the conference produced I think bears some scrutiny.

Effectively, prior to Durban the increasing presumption was that there was no future for any kind of law-based international treaty on climate change; the future lay in so-called “pledge and review” commitments in which countries make voluntary commitments or bilateral deals that might be more or less effective depending who did them and how.

Instead, the agreement to work towards a treaty that will succeed the Kyoto accord by 2020 – even if the road to doing so remains strewn with difficulties – overturns those assumptions. That can only be good for climate change policies and low-carbon investments in countries that might have been beginning to think that, well, if no one else will be doing it, why should we?

It will be particularly important as far as the EU is concerned, which was beginning to feel that kind of pressure. It probably means that the targets for renewable energy, for example, will stay in place rather than be watered down, and that some of Europe’s more ambitious carbon-emission-cutting aspirations will be cemented and developed.

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