Media in India, China and United Kingdom (The one that I could browse thanks to internet and my ability to read English) were lionizing their respective leaders for clinching a deal that made Durban Summit a success. British media feted Connie Hedegaard, the Danish environment minister and EU commissioner for environment for “holding on to her nerves” to finally force India and China to agree for a deal. While Indians hailed Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of Environment and Forest, for restoring India’s lost ground and leadership of developing countries. However, media in all these countries said in unison –“Durban was a success for UN negotiating platform and its legitimacy and relevance were finally restored.”
The last bit is true even if it is partial. It is a victory for those trying to secure UN negotiating process’ legitimacy. However, it’s a failure in terms of dealing with the threat of climate change. All that the 12 day annual jamboree could achieve in tangible terms was a reluctant acceptance by Europe to carry on with Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment.
Let’s look at other “significant successes” of the Durban Summit. It agreed for a green climate fund that has been agreed upon in Copenhagen Summit itself two years ago. The modalities of the fund and how will the money flow in is still to be worked out, exactly what was said two years ago. Similarly an agreement was arrived at to work out a framework for Intellectual Property Regime (IPR) and technology transfer issues. This too was agreed upon in Copenhagen and made part of the Cancun agreement last year.
The greatest feather in the cap that inspired South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to dub it as a success was a loosely worded agreement between India, China, US, France and EU to keep talking about a deal that would be brokered by 2015 and would come into force by 2020 based on the principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. No sooner the South African chair had hit the hammer on the gong with a self congratulatory thud murmurs of dissent could be heard all round the venue. The Chinese were back to their stated position that developed countries have to do more. The US said the hard work has only begun we have a long way to go and today Canada actually pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Conference of Parties (COP as the signatories of UNFCCC are known in UN jargon) in their last 17 meeting in as many years were able to come up with only one tangible and legally binding success in the form of Kyoto Protocol. This happened despite every government head, NGO and experts of the time unanimously accepting the fact that time was running out and the situation needed urgent action that was measureable and legally binding keeping the common but differentiated responsibilities in mind.
It took five years after the famous Rio Earth Summit of 1992 to strike a deal that we now know as Kyoto Protocol. It took another 11 years to bring it into force and another four years to finally molly coddle a small group of nations within Annexe 1 to agree for another commitment period of five years. So much for efficiency and sense of urgency in dealing with a challenge that is becoming dire by the day.
In Rio, at least there was a lot of bonhomie and a spirit of “we-are –all-together-in-it” till the time vague and impassioned language of a treaty was concerned. Things started falling apart after, ”historic global step forward”, when negotiators got down to working out legally binding specific targets of carbon emission reduction. Today 19 years later the same vague language arrived at after a lot of bickering and listlessness is being touted as great success. However, this success is again headed for another round of endless skullduggery, acrimony and at the end a lot of heartburn.
Durban durbar has produced an old script in an even older parchment that stinks of rotting creativity killed by 19 years of pre-meditated mal intentions. Its outcome and language remind me of my early days in journalism when we as cub reporters tried to repackage old story ideas or excuses, our boss in his booming voice would bark at us — “Deja moooo!” It meant, “I have heard this bullshit before.”
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