Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Why the UN can never stop climate change

For any progress to be made, diplomacy should shift to smaller forums, with achievable goals and focus on adaptation—this is the message of David G. Victor, professor at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego and author of Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet (Cambridge University Press).

Writing in Monday's Guardian, Professor Victor reviews the likelihood of any meaningful advance in tackling global warming during the UN summit that opened last Sunday:
On Sunday in Thailand diplomats opened another round of formal United Nations talks on global warming. For more than 20 years, the UN has been working on this problem, with little progress. Expectations have never been lower. The December 2009 conference in Copenhagen that was supposed to finalise a new treaty to replace the expiring Kyoto protocol ended in deadlock. Last year's talks in Cancún ended without agreement on most of the important new issues.
... failure to make progress.... is mainly due to bad strategy. The United Nations forum is the wrong place for serious diplomacy. One of the chief strengths of the UN system – that it involves every nation on the planet – is a huge liability for global warming. By working in large groups, UN talks are often held hostage to the whims of even small players – as happened in Copenhagen and Cancún when Sudan and Bolivia and a few other nations whose emissions of warming pollution are tiny. The UN system has also relied on legally binding agreements, which sound good in theory yet have proved difficult to tailor and adjust in light of the many different interests that must be reflected in any serious international pact to control emissions.
Professor Victor makes three suggestions: 1. that discussion should only take place in small forums that involve only the larger countries; 2. shift focus of discussions to that which is really achievable; and, 3. talks must shift from focusing exclusively on controlling emissions to dealing with the reality that lots of climate change is inevitable....

Read his opinion piece in full in order to review his suggestions in more detail. It all sounds very sensible! Meanwhile, the professor succinctly-stated views help to document reasons why tackling climate change is / has been so difficult—grist to our examination mill!

1 comment:

  1. Obviously the UN believes it can tackle climate change and some ideas are found here: