This year’s global climate conference has increased pessimism about the future. With few tangible outcomes and big polluters scrapping their pledges to reduce emissions, the more vulnerable nations are demanding that something happens now before it is too late for them.
In 47 years the world will be, on average, 4 Degrees Celsius warmer. Its ecological systems will have completely changed and life for the most vulnerable will be tenuous. A global meeting to avert this was held from the 11th to the 22nd of November in Warsaw, Poland, and pessimism was at an all-time high. Countries are retreating from their pledges to lower targets, and a global agreement might come into force only in 2020.
The 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) started with little hype. The last two meetings in Durban in 2011 and Qatar in 2012, had a sense of urgency because the only global agreement on climate change, the Kyoto Protocol, was about to end.
By locking delegates into a room in Durban, the South African delegation forced an agreement that another protocol would be in place by 2015. This would form the basis of a global and legally binding agreement on how to tackle climate change, which would come to force in 2020. But the only tangible thing that has emerged in recent years is the Green Climate Fund. This is meant to have $100-billion a year by 2020 to help countries to adapt to a changing climate. There is supposed to be what is termed “fast start” money in the fund now. But nobody has been willing to hand over anything, and proposals are still being discussed.
On the 20th of November, the Chinese delegation led a walkout with 131 other developing nations to protest the lack of progress on funding for “loss and damage”. This is the argument a the core of all COP meetings: the developing world wants the rich world to pay for it to use less carbon-intensive energy and for the damage acused by climate change as majority of the emissions were produced by the developed world.
The developed world on the other hand blames the recession and a lack of funds, and argues that, because emissions from the Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are now on a par with the developed world, they should not benefit from any funding.
Although negotiations have dragged on for nearly two decades, climate change science has advanced rapidly.