Julian Hunt: How good was this deal really?

Developing countries insist their economies must grow before cuts to emissions

Julian Hunt
Monday 12 December 2011 01:00
Comments

The current estimate for global temperature rise by 2100 is 3.5C. This is a devastating conclusion that underlines why many people, including myself, believe global warming represents the biggest threat to mankind. The international consensus that has emerged is that: global temperature rise should be limited to 2C; that emission policies should be determined at regional (eg. European), national and city level; and that the United Nations should monitor and co-ordinate these.

While a limited deal was reached at Durban, securing a comprehensive, global agreement is unlikely soon. A key problem is that governments are focused upon immediate issues such as financial fragility. There is also growing caution about long-lasting, tightly defined agreements that might affect flexibility.

Furthermore, some argue that an agreement is unnecessary because of future technological solutions, while another complicating factor is that many developing countries insist their economies must grow significantly before they can reduce total emissions.

Recent measurements are consistent with predicted effects in the atmosphere, ocean and on land caused by climate change. For instance, temperatures over land areas have steadily increased, while ocean surface layers in this decade have cooled especially over the Pacific. This is a long-lasting and natural cycle. But the deeper ocean has simultaneously been warming, resulting in a steady rise in global average sea level. In the tropical seas surrounding low-lying coastal areas the level is rising about three times faster, so local communities are at risk.

These and other disturbing phenomena are driving regional, national and city legislators to introduce bills and regulations to control emissions, preserve forests, marine areas and other critical environments. Moreover, 9,000 companies are working together and with governments to enable a framework for long-range investment.

Another positive is the high-level commitment by the UN and national governments to dealing with climate change which encouraged hundreds of organisations, engaged in practical programmes, to come to South Africa.

As the danger of international non-coordination is better understood, people will probably press governments harder for a comprehensive, global agreement. However, even such a deal will be useless without rigorous monitoring, and actions of governments and industry. High-level science and technology, and on-the-ground inspection, must also be foundations of the road map for tackling climate change.

Lord Julian Hunt is a visiting professor at Delft University of Technology, and vice-president of Global Legislators Organisation (Globe)

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in