Saturday, 11 December 2010

Climate change talks - a load of hot air?

This time last year the much-trumpeted Copenhagen climate summit roundly failed to deliver any meaningful resolution by the 193-odd countries in attendance to limit carbon emissions or take other steps to halt climate change. It was almost as if the nations of the world had collectively shrugged their shoulders and said, "Not our problem". It was a bitter disappointment to politicians and environmentalists alike.

But there is now some cause for optimism, albeit tinged with a healthy doe of caution. Delegates at this year's UN climate change talks in the Mexican resort of Cancún have reached a new deal pledging to explore curbs on carbon emissions and the creation of a fund allowing poorer nations to develop in an environmentally responsible manner. It is at least a step in the right direction and a sign that the heady idealism of Copenhagen has not been abandoned completely.

Much work remains to be done, however. There has been no firm promise to implement deeper carbon cuts nor the creation of legally-binding codes of conduct; this will have to wait until next year's conference in South Africa. Meanwhile the danger remains that the longer we wait to take action the harder it will be to reverse the damage already done.

What's needed in this post-Kyoto world is a firm commitment by all states to exploit resources in a manner that does not permanently upset the globe's delicate balance. This requires action, not words - and the realisation that the current impasse cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.

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