“The decision to move towards a unified system with all countries having some form of legal commitments removes an important obstacle.“
Lord Nicholas Stern Professor, London School of Economics
At its core, the Durban Platform is an agreement between states to carry on talking about a climate change deal.
There is no guarantee that they can actually reach a meaningful deal to reduce carbon emissions by 2015.
As always, economic challenges represent the greatest barrier to any climate change deal. Governments failed to reach an agreement in better times. Now, with weak growth and economic concerns, the circumstances are even less favorable.
Given the range of barriers to a meaningful deal, it would be risky to assume that states would reach a deal by 2015. And even they reach a deal, how can it be enforced?
Reasons for optimism
The pessimists have a strong case, but some feel there is cause for guarded optimism for 2015.
There are four key reasons for this:
- This agreement gives more time for parties to reach a political consensus.
- If Barack Obama is re-elected, he will have less to lose in reaching an agreement and will potentially try to push the required legislation through Congress.
- China will just have adopted their new Five-Year Plan (its 12th Five-Year Plan runs from 2011–15). Experts expect to see increasing focus on the environment and sustainable development.
- The IPCC expects to complete the Fifth Assessment Report in 2014. This will help to provide an updated and internationally agreed basis of fact and analysis.
Hurdles to face
Some significant challenges remain, including:
- China’s desire for energy security and economic growth trumps concern about climate change
While the political desire to de-carbonize may be growing in China, it will most likely not outweigh the preference for energy security and continued economic growth.
- Domestic political barriers to the US agreeing a transformative deal remain significant
While the political environment in the US might be more advantageous by 2015, President Obama might be unable or unwilling to act.
- Climate change still not a top priority for most people
Perhaps most importantly, climate change is a secondary priority for many people.
Most US and European citizens believe managing international economic problems should be the top priority for the US president and European leaders. Many less are concerned with fighting climate change.
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