Science is clear: ‘If we don’t act seriously and urgently, it will be too late to reverse climate change’.
Is it economically and politically feasible to make the necessary deep commitments for mitigation? That is a political question, not a scientific one, and depends on the choices nations and humanity wish to make:
– OR to stick to the usual – or only slightly changed – emissions and development track, with the scientific certainty that this will lead to the collapse of the world as we know it, eventually to the ruin of humankind itself;
– OR to make strong commitments now, knowing it will hurt economy and development, but ultimately saving Mother Earth.

The options are not negotiable, they are a result of the intrinsic laws of Nature, and made clear to us by science, with error margins of only some years of spare time, or some gigatons extra that can be emitted in order not to exceed the global carbon budget.

But on the basic facts, science is unequivocal:
we are at the edge of passing dangerous tipping points and entering a world of climate chaos, and everything must be done to avoid doing so.

Doing ‘everything’ is definitely not the same as loosely making some promises on mitigation. As John Ashton, British diplomat, rightly states in his article in The Guardian: “A voluntary framework will not be enough to keep us within the 2C limit of manageable climate change.”

Voluntary Pledging means:
– A country can do as little as it pleases
– A country can hide behind the inaction of others
-There will be no punishment for non-compliance with the promised number. So probably even those –totally insufficient- numbers won’t be met.

Indeed, accepting voluntary pledges means disregarding all limits established by science. That is why all nations decided to work towards a binding climate regime in Bali, and put themselves a deadline for 2009 in Copenhagen. This regime had to consist of the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and the implementation of the convention, on mitigation, finance and transfer of technology.

In Copenhagen however, the results of the official negotiation process were deliberately swept under the table. Instead, the ‘Copenhagen Accord’, based on a regime of voluntary pledges, was pushed forward for adoption. This attempt did not succeed, because several parties rejected the ‘Accord’, and the world was left waiting for the real solutions.

In Cancun, quite the same happened. An ‘Agreement’ was forced on the countries. They had to swallow it just as it was presented. Cancun made official what Copenhagen couldn’t: the climate regime was to become a voluntary, pledge-based one.

Copenhagen and Cancun not only downgraded the strong commitment spirit of the climate regime based on the Kyoto Protocol; they also totally disregarded the principle of what negotiators call the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’. By this they mean that developed countries do have commitments, and developing countries only voluntary pledges. This was based on the fact that developed countries emitted 3/4ths of all historical emissions, while representing only 1/4th of global population. Moreover, thanks to their emissions they achieved full development, whereas developing countries are now carbon-restricted. This inhibits their efforts to raise their poor population out of poverty.

So, in other words, the Cancun Agreements weren’t even a little step forward for climate negotiations, they were a big step backwards, as they were the starting point of the voluntary pledges system Mr. John Ashton so fiercely rejects.

Who really wants to act responsibly for the climate, must not assent with the downgrading of the actual regime, or with locking in totally insufficient pledges, condemning the world to a 4-degree pathway.

That is exactly what Bolivia did in Copenhagen and Cancun: rejecting a non-solution. What now needs to be done in Durban is to revert the decisions of Cancun, and to offer the world a continuity of the Kyoto Protocol. That is to say, a real continuity, not some empty shell sanctified with ‘Kyoto Protocol’ label. Furthermore it needs to be filled out with strong commitments by developed countries, making possible a pathway that can save the world.

I call on the UK – as on all nations- to stand by their words and to reject a voluntary climate regime.

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