COP15: The Case Against Participatory Forums?

7 Jan

Depending on one’s outlook the Copenhagen climate talks ranged from disappointing to an outright failure. Indeed, this monumental failure to reach consensus has raised questions about the utility of attempting such a participatory conference in the future.  Critics have argued for smaller more focused meetings with limited agendas and tangible outcomes.  As many sources predicted—including here on PisaSpeak—much of the acrimony broke down along developing/developed country lines. In one of many representative quotes, Sudan’s Lumumba Di Aping, speaking for the G77 countries, decried “the West prevailing at the expense of the rest of the developing countries.” Would the Copenhagen Conference have achieved more by being less inclusive?  Might countries have been more amenable to agreements that focused on fewer goals and more modest outcomes?

The non-binding agreement that emerged from Copenhagen stands little chance of satisfying the large consortium of scientists and analysts who argue the aggressive, deep cuts are our chance to avert cataclysmic temperature rise. Already climate negotiators are beginning to talk about the possibility of further progress at the next UNFCCC meeting this year in Mexico. In the developing world, the final agreement at Copenhagen was acceptable, in Nature’s view, “because without it there would have been nothing to show for the largest environmental conference in history.” Surely none of them missed the fact that the $100 billion committed by developed nations for sustainable development is more of a vague promise than a firm commitment.

In the wake of a disappointing outcome at Copenhagen, where can we look for encouragement? PisaSpeak will usher in 2010 with a Special Series that will explore the most urgent concerns Asian nations face as they tackle climate change without the hoped for legal framework COP-15 promised.  We will drill down to the heart of key issues such as climate change and public health, threats to national security posed by climate change, and how countries in the region are attempting to build resilience.  As always, we encourage your comments and criticism as we move ahead into the New Year.

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